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Well, that was strangely encouraging. Still no Rudy Gay, night after an exhilarating but draining win, a Spurs team who have been playing like the worldbeaters they are all season. Down 41-21 in the first half. Came back and had a major chance to win, but this game shows that the Griz, while they’ve taken major upward strides, still have a ways to go to match up with the very best in the NBA.

Gotta figure, though, that if, by chance, these teams were to play seven consecutive against one another, the Griz have a chance to get at least one and likely more…but not tonight.

Having to fight so darned hard to come back from so darned far behind undoubtedly cost the Griz some effort on D as the game came down to the final seconds, and even before that-witness Tony Allen’s foul trouble (although that had much to do with Manu’s typically Manuesque abandon as the game came to a close).

The Grizzlies matched the Spurs’ physicality throughout the game (leading to 25 Griz fouls, unfotunately, and a ton of FT’s for SAS), which was a good sign considering all the aforementioned potential excuses for coming into the contest flying on fumes, so to speak….but in the end, it was close but no cigar.

Biggest problem the Griz had to overcome was their first half shooting, which was colder than Barrow, AK on December 21st. Yes, the low % was partially falsely magnified due to ZBo not being able to convert on a 5-FGA possession, but the first half, save for the final five or so minutes of Q2, was the Grizzlies’ most futile offensive outing of the season. With any luck, that got it out of their system, ‘cuz it’s highly likely that a team loses any game in which they shoot like that for basically an entire half.

Needless to say, the “hey the Spurs now focus more on offense” perspective was not in evidence….and that’s ‘cuz the Grizzlies defense was not exactly horrible. Not great, but not horrible. On the inside, they did well-except against Manu-but a couple of nasty threes from George Hill and Ginger were the difference in the game.

Acouple of Grizzlies and what they did or did not do

-OJ. Didn’t even come close to duplicating his heroic performance of the Griz’ last visit to San Antonio. Just couldn’t seem to get his shots in his spots.

-Hamed Haddadi. What didn’t he do? Play, the night after becoming the new Javarence Kinseyton for many Griz fans. Probably just as well, and not a terrible decision by Hollins, as he’d have gotten eaten alive on the inside by such savvy vets as McDyess and Duncan. His utter height advantage over Blair would have helped, but Pop would have never allowed those two to match up.

-Darrell Arthur. He did his destitute-man’s-LMA thing scoring-wise, but it wasn’t quite enough tonight.

-Tony Allen. He let his intensity get the best of him this night, and it had him in foul trouble the whole game. As i mentioned in the pregame, TA v. Manu was the key matchup of the game, and the Griz lost that matchup big-time. It was surely the barometer for the game. And TA’s inability to stay on the floor led to the biggest problem for the Griz of the whole game…

-the Griz’ fourth-quarter defense. If you let a team (and one player in specific) run roughshod in the fourth in a close game, there’s just no mystery about what’s going to happen. Manu with half of the Spurs’ absurd 36-point Q4 output. “Put the team on his back” is quite an understatement, and no matter if it was Shane, Sam Young, or TA, the Grizzlies just could not stop one of the NBA’s best when it came to crunch time.

Best thing about this game? It’s over and done with, and the Grizzlies get to redeem themselves against the same team Tuesday night at FEF.

Might be a good thing to get used to playing these Spurs for several games in a row, eh?

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