Memphis home-cooking: Spurs season comes to an end

The Spurs season ends on the road in their only play-in game tournament appearance.

Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (17) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball Western Conference play-in game Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (17) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball Western Conference play-in game Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio has played well throughout the years as being the underdog—even when the talent on their roster outmatched their opponents— it’s nothing new to the franchise or the fans and they both take notice when they are underappreciated and overlooked.

Case in point: ESPN posted an image for the NBA Playoffs Tuesday that included members from every team entering the postseason, excluding the Spurs.

Perhaps the ESPN graphics department didn’t think much of the Spurs’ chances in Wednesday’s play-in tournament game against the Memphis Grizzlies, but San Antonio fought their hardest to keep their season alive.

But that didn’t happen until the second quarter.

Memphis came out on fire and jumped to a 21-point lead while the Spurs took over five minutes to score six points; it would take another two and a half minutes to score two more points. At the end of the first, Memphis was up 38-19.

The second quarter was a different story.

The Spurs would go on a 17-0 run in that period, capped off by a thunderous putback slam from Keldon Johnson that cut the Grizzlies lead to 41-39 with 7:05 to play.

After failing to go to the free-throw line even once in the first quarter, San Antonio ended up making 10 of their 13 attempts from the charity stripe in the quarter.

Memphis would outscore San Antonio 15-10 after that and led 56-49 at halftime. Memphis had four of their starting five in double digits by the half led by Jonas Valanciunas who scored 16 points and hauled in 15 rebounds including 13 on the defensive end. Rudy Gay led the Spurs off the bench with nine points as San Antonio outscored Memphis 30-18 in the second.

Both teams scored 16 points in the third quarter with San Antonio cutting the Memphis lead to both three and four points at different times in the quarter— even though the Spurs couldn’t cut the lead down at the end of the third—the Memphis shooting percentage had dropped to just over 40% after they shot over 60% in the first quarter.

The Spurs got their first lead in the second half, after scoring the opening bucket of the game, when DeMar DeRozan nailed the long jumper giving the Spurs the 80-79 lead.

DeRozan, who led the Spurs in scoring this season with 21.6 points per game, finished with 20 points on 5 of 21 shooting after making only one basket in the first half. DeRozan finished 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Memphis would tie the game at 83 with over half the quarter remaining and outscored San Antonio from there 17-13. Rudy Gay would cut the lead to three 99-96 after nailing the 3-pointer with 9.3 to play.

Gay would have the chance to cut the lead to one but missed his next 3-point shot with 1.6 remaining. Gay finished with 20 points off the bench.

Memphis wins 100-96 after the Spurs shot 35.4% from the field. The Grizzlies move on to face either the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Lakers in the final play-in tournament game on Friday.

Dillon Brooks had 24 points for Memphis, Ja Morant finished with 20 points and Valanciunas had an impressive 23 point game on 10 of 16 shooting with 23 total rebounds.

Dejounte Murray finished with a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out 11 assists. Keldon Johnson ending the night with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Jakob Poeltl added 10 points and 10 rebounds including 5 blocks.

Although Memphis finished the season ninth in the Western Conference, the young squad put up a lot of impressive numbers this year. The Grizzlies were ranked first in the NBA for steals, fast break points, second-chance points and points in the paint.

On Wednesday, the Grizzlies scored 18 fast break points compared to the Spurs two. Memphis added 48 points in the paint while San Antonio had 38.

Former Spur Kyle Anderson, although he didn’t fill up the stat sheet, was a leader on the court, often seen firing up his quad and directing the rest of his starters. He finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Jaren Jackson Jr., the son of former Spur Jaren Jackson who was instrumental in the 1999 San Antonio championship, finished the game with 10 points.

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 for over 18 years and is an award-winning producer. To submit story ideas, email dvillanueva@ksat.com


About the Author:

Daniel P. Villanueva has been with KSAT 12 since 2003 and is the producer of our weekly sports show, "Instant Replay." Villanueva is a graduate of St. Mary's University and is a TAPB and Lone Star Emmy award winner.