SAN ANTONIO — Tony Parker had 20 points and nine assists, Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and the San Antonio Spurs struck first in the Western Conference finals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 105-83 on Sunday.
The Spurs avoided a repeat of their Game 1 loss when the teams met two years ago in the first round. The Grizzlies went on to knock San Antonio out of the playoffs as the top seed that time.
San Antonio raced out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, then came up with a response when Memphis rallied to get within six in the second half. Both teams pulled their starters with over 5 minutes left and the Spurs leading by 21.
Quincy Pondexter led Memphis with 17 points. Grizzlies All-Star Zach Randolph missed his first seven shots and scored his only points on a tip-in with 9:26 left in the game.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.
The NBA’s stingiest defense wasn’t up to its usual standards, allowing the Spurs to hit 53 percent of their shots and a franchise postseason-record 14 3-pointers while Randolph struggled.
Randolph was a non-factor after going for a playoff-best 28 points and 14 rebounds as Memphis eliminated defending West champ Oklahoma City in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The Grizzlies started to rally as soon as Randolph came out of the game for the first time in the second half.
Pondexter made a baseline cut for a layup off Darrell Arthur’s pass, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers during a 10-0 burst. Jerryd Bayless’ two-handed, fast-break dunk off a steal got the Grizzlies within 62-56 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
The comeback was short-lived, though.
Bayless missed a 3-pointer on the next trip, and Manu Ginobili was able to make one at the opposite end to spark an 11-1 response that immediately restored the Spurs’ lead to 16 by end of the quarter. Leonard hit a pair of 3-pointers and Gary Neal had one as San Antonio kept pouring it on in the fourth.
The four regular-season meetings were all won by the team with more points in the paint, but perimeter shooting proved to be a bigger factor in the playoff opener. Memphis, which was second in the NBA by holding opponents to 33.8 shooting on 3-pointers, let San Antonio make 13 of its first 24 from behind the arc and finish 14 of 29.
Danny Green connected three times and scored 16, and Matt Bonner hit four of his five attempts for 12 points.
Marc Gasol provided 15 points for Memphis, and Mike Conley had 14 points and eight assists.
The Spurs asserted themselves early, scoring on their first seven possessions and also getting a couple head-to-head defensive stops from their veterans while claiming a quick 23-8 lead. Parker swiped the ball from Conley on Memphis’ second possession, running out for a layup, and Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins burned a timeout in the first 2 minutes.
Tim Duncan snuffed out the ensuing play by blocking Randolph’s shot, and the Spurs’ strong start continued. Bonner hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 17-point edge late in the first quarter, and San Antonio pushed out to a 43-23 advantage following consecutive baskets by Parker with 6:06 left before halftime.
It was the largest first-half deficit for the Grizzlies during the playoffs.
Gasol hit three baskets as Memphis made a push to get back in the game before halftime, trimming the deficit to 51-37 at the break.
Notes: Memphis’ only larger deficit this postseason came in the first-round opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. L.A. didn’t lead by 20 until the final minute of a 112-91 victory. ... Tracy McGrady got a standing ovation when he checked in with the Spurs up by 20 midway through the fourth quarter. ... The Spurs had 13 3-pointers in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in last year’s playoffs, on May 15.MORE IN Sports WireMOSCOW — The International Olympic Committee is weighing whether to ban Russia from next month’s... Full StorySPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Jordan Spieth hit the reset button after the U.S. Full Story
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