The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, a pair of NBA teams on escalators heading in opposite directions, meet on the court for the second time in five days when they square off on Wednesday at FedEx Forum in Memphis.
Since the Spurs handled the Grizzlies 108-88 last week in San Antonio to even the season series between the two teams, San Antonio has continued its hot run, forging a season-best five-game win streak.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 points for the Spurs, who have won 13 of their past 16 games. Derrick White scored 17, Bryn Forbes hit for 15 and Patty Mills tallied 13 points off the bench for San Antonio in the win in Motor City.
“After the first quarter we competed well, we were sharper, and we executed better,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We had a poor first quarter, but I thought we pulled it together and focused pretty well after that.”
The win granted Popovich his 1,221st league victory, tying him with Jerry Sloan for third place, trailing only Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens. It was also the 518th road victory for Popovich, breaking a tie with Nelson for second on that career list. He’s now two behind leader Pat Riley.
While the Spurs (24-17) have won 13 of their past 16 games, Monday’s victory was just the seventh of the season on the road.
“We are more conscious of the fact that we have to generate our own energy on the road and be a little more aggressive,” DeRozan said. “We have to make it all about us and understand what we need to do when we are out on the court. We are always at our best when we can rebound and get out on the break, and that was an emphasis tonight.”
San Antonio played in Detroit without forward Rudy Gay, who was out with a sprained left wrist. Gay will likely miss the next two games as well, according to Popovich.
While things have been trending upward in a big way for the Spurs, Memphis is in free-fall, losing six straight to fall to a season-worst 18-22.
The latest setback was a 114-95 loss at New Orleans on Monday in which Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 10 assists.
Memphis started the season with wins in 15 of its first 24 games and has gone 3-13 since.
Like always, the Grizzlies brought plenty of fight and effort into the loss on Monday. The game was tied nine times and had 11 changes before a 70-42 New Orleans advantage in the paint wore down Memphis.
“Our confidence is really fragile and when something bad happens, especially in the second half, we kind of panic and a six- or eight-point deficit goes to 16,” Memphis center Marc Gasol said. “Things aren’t going our way and teams are doing a good job of taking away what we are trying to do, so we have to figure out ways to play out of that.”
JaMychal Green added 16 points off the bench for Memphis in the loss while Jaren Jackson Jr. hit for 12.
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said his team’s mood is still on track despite its prolonged slump.
“There is a trust there that they will give you what they’ve got,” Bickerstaff told the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal about his players. “As long as guys are giving you what (they’ve) got, then you’re with them. You’re fighting with them, you’re pulling with them, and trying to make something positive happen.”
–Field Level Media