MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are looking for more consistency on defense. They came up with one of their better efforts of the season against the faltering Memphis Grizzlies.
The Spurs held Memphis to 41 percent shooting, forced 16 turnovers and pulled away in the fourth quarter sending the Grizzlies to their 10th straight loss with a 95-79 triumph Friday night.
“We’re not consistent,” said Spurs reserve guard Manu Ginobili, who had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “We’ve had some games where the activity is great like (Friday), where we hustle, went for loose balls. We were very aggressive. Some other games we are passive. … Consistency is what we are after.”
The defensive consistency, coupled with 22 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 18 more from Rudy Gay, led the Spurs to their fourth straight victory. Patty Mills had 10 points. Memphis’ 79 points were two short of the season-low for a San Antonio opponent.
Memphis, which trailed 68-59 heading into the fourth, let the game slip completely away when San Antonio ripped off a 16-1 rally in the middle stages of the final frame, taking the Spurs lead to 25.
“What bothers me the most is how we laid down at the end of the game, especially on the defensive end,” said Marc Gasol, who led the Grizzlies with 16 points and 13 rebounds. “I understand when things don’t go well for you offensively. You may go in a weird place mentally, but the defense has no excuse.”
The Grizzlies did come out with more energy at the start of the game than the overall tone of play during the losing streak. The more spirited effort came in the second game under interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over after David Fizdale was fired Monday.
While the attitude was different, it didn’t offset the Spurs talent and depth. Memphis held an early lead, but it didn’t take long for San Antonio to overcome the advantage and lead the rest of the way.
“Team defense was very good,” said Spurs guard Tony Parker, who was playing in his third game after returning from offseason surgery for a ruptured left quadriceps tendon. “I thought we communicated pretty good, and overall, we were active.”
Spurs: Aldridge had a season-high 41 points against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. … San Antonio shot 44 percent, and the Spurs are 15-0 when they outshoot an opponent.
Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons (right knee), Mario Chalmers (right ankle) and Brandan Wright (right groin), all of whom sat out Wednesday’s game at San Antonio with injuries, played Friday. … However, Wright experienced tightness in the groin during the first half and did not return. … McLemore surpassed his season-high with 11 points in the first half.
BAD, BAD STRETCH
The 10-game losing streak is the longest for Memphis since losing 12 straight in January 2009. Memphis has not won a game since a road victory at Portland on Nov. 7. The Grizzlies last home win was Oct. 28 over the Houston Rockets. “The guys are down about it, but what happens sometimes when you on these streaks is one punch and you just start thinking about (the struggles),” Bickerstaff said.
Injured Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard accompanied San Antonio to Memphis, but did not play. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game that Leonard, who hasn’t played this season because of a quadriceps injury, may return soon. “He’s getting closer all the time,” Popovich said. “He could be back sooner rather than later.” Leonard’s teammates are looking forward to his return and getting players back in their regular roles. Patty Mills is playing with the second unit since Parker’s return, and Kyle Anderson eventually will go back to the reserves when Leonard is healthy. “We’ve been playing together for a long time and we are used to each other,” Ginobili said.
Spurs: At Oklahoma City on Sunday
Grizzlies: At Cleveland on Saturday night.