The Memphis Grizzlies may have moved to a new city but losing to the San Antonio Spurs is nothing new.
Tim Duncan collected 27 points and 18 rebounds for his league-leading 24th double-double and David Robinson added 21 and 13 as the Spurs continued their mastery over the Grizzlies with an 83-79 victory Sunday at The Pyramid.
San Antonio has won the last 16 meetings with the Grizzlies for its longest streak against any team. The Spurs improved to 12-1 all-time on the road against Memphis.
Last season, the Spurs swept all four meetings by an average of 18 points. This time, however, they encountered a more competitive group of Grizzlies.
San Antonio, which was coming off consecutive overtime defeats to Dallas and Milwaukee, started slowly and trailed, 18-15. Duncan had just three points as the Spurs shot just 31 percent (5-of-16).
"We had a sluggish start," Duncan said. "I thought the Grizzlies came out and had a great first half. They were very aggressive, they shot the ball pretty well and we helped them a whole lot. We missed a bunch of free throws. But the great thing is, we came out in the second half and turned it up a little bit.
"We've been struggling a little bit lately to get our rhythm, to get our offense going," Robinson added. "We finally got a little something happening during the middle stretch of the game, and down the stretch we made some good stops in the fourth."
The sluggish start carried into to the second quarter as a 3-pointer by rookie Shane Battier gave Memphis a 39-33 lead with 3:09 left.
But Bruce Bowen's 3-pointer sparked a 11-3 run to close the half. Duncan's hook shot put San Antonio ahead for good, 42-41, with 36.4 seconds to go.
The Spurs built their lead to 11 points twice in the third quarter. Each time, however, the Grizzlies responded. Battier hit another 3-pointer to cap an 11-3 run that got Memphis within 58-55 with 44 seconds left.
The Grizzlies made just 5-of-20 shots in the period and finished at 37 percent (31-of-84).
Duncan scored 20 points in the second and third quarters, helping San Antonio take a 60-55 lead into the final period. Robinson came up with a series of stellar defensive plays and produced three easy baskets down the stretch.
Robinson easily went by Pau Gasol for a layup that gave the Spurs a 76-72 lead with 1:53 left. After a turnover by Gasol, Robinson took a pass from Antonio Daniels and went by the Spanish rookie for an easy dunk that put San Antonio ahead by six points.
"Gasol played with a lot of courage out there," Robinson said. "Most of the time we play a lot of teams, expecially young teams, and against me and Tim they get their shot blocked a few times and quit playing. But those guys kept coming at us."
Gasol led the Grizzlies with 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting. But he missed an easy jumper, two free throws and an open layup in the final minute.
After the game, Gasol said he was trying not to be intimidated by one of the NBA's most formidable defensive duos.
"I was trying to go at them and not be intimidated by anybody. It was personally my fault because I lost the ball," he added.
Battier had 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. But while trying to set up the offense after a rebound, he was stripped by Robinson, who went in for an easy dunk that sealed the win.
The sixth overall draft pick from Duke also noticed a difference in the team's attitude after losing earlier this season.
"I think the good thing (is) we are a little bitter about it," Battier said. "A month ago, we would have been satisified with the way played tonight and said, 'Oh well, we'll get them next time.' But we should have that bitter feeling at the end of games, feeling you could have very well ended up winning the game. It shows competitive fire and a will to win."
"We just took one of the top teams in the league down to the wire," Memphis coach Sidney Lowe added. "I thought we could win, but we turned it over twice after we made two big stops. We did not play smart down the stretch. We were in position, but we didn't pull it out. If we didn't turn the ball over those two times at the end and we scored, you never know what will happen."