The Spurs will be fuming after conceding the 11-point lead they held at the start of the fourth quarter against the Lakers, only to lose 112-116. Pau Gasol flirted with a triple-double in the loss, contributing 19 points, ten boards and eight assists.
The loss was San Antonio’s second in a row, and the eighth in their past ten games as they continue to slide down the Western Conference standings. Their 36-27 record has them in sixth place, just two games ahead of the Clippers in ninth.
Things are significantly worse for the Grizzlies, who have now lost 13 games in succession. The most recent of these was a 100-107 defeat at the hands of the Magic, which came in the absence of Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans.
With the loss, Memphis claimed the title of outright last in the west. With a record of 18-44, they now have the worst record in the NBA.
Three keys to the game
History - Stretching back to last season, the Spurs have now beaten the Grizzlies in five consecutive games. This season, they are 3-0 in the season series, and have won by an average of 16 points. Clearly, San Antonio have the measure of the struggling Memphis, and will be confident they can once again dispose of them on Monday.
The availability of Gasol and Evans - Memphis are very clearly in full tanking mode, and are using any excuse possible to keep their only two decent players sidelined. Evans is expected to miss on Monday as he recovers from a rib injury, while Gasol is listed as questionable as a result of numerous minor ailments. Without these two players, the Grizzlies are hopelessly inexperienced, and will struggle to put up a fight against the Spurs.
San Antonio’s form - The Spurs are in crisis mode, having gone 2-8 in their past ten games to slide from third to sixth in the west. It has been their defense which has been the biggest problem in this time, with their defensive rating of 109.1 in this time almost seven points worse than their season defensive rating of 102.4.
Matchup to watch
Pau Gasol vs Marc Gasol - Hopefully, the younger brother gets up for the Grizzlies and provides an entertaining battle against Pau. Marc, at age 33, is still playing excellent basketball, and is this season averaging 17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 blocks to go with his customary stingy defense. Pau is a long way past his best, but showed he is still capable of contributing in a big way with his performance against the Lakers. For the season, he averages just 10.8 points, the lowest number of his career, while also contributing 8.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks. Last time these sides met though, he was just an assist shy of a triple-double in the battle of the brothers.
San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup
PG - Patty Mills | SG - Dejounte Murray | SF - Kyle Anderson | PF - Davis Bertans | C - Pau Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies predicted starting lineup
PG - Mario Chalmers | SG - Ben McLemore | SF - Dillon Brooks | PF - Jarell Martin | C - JaMychal Green
Aldridge missed the most recent matchup between the two sides, but was dominant in the first two of the season. He scored 63 points combined in these games, highlighted by a 17-for-24, 41 point effort in the first game. He has been lethal from downtown in these games, going 6-for-8 on his long range attempts.
Pau Gasol turned back the clock in the Spurs' most recent win against Memphis. He showed his younger brother what he’s capable of, contributing 14 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists in the 23 point loss.
The Grizzlies have been given a 10.5-point head start in the betting markets, and this may not be enough for them. San Antonio don’t often crunch teams, but the Grizzlies are not a good side at all, and will struggle to keep pace with a very well-coached side. Expect the Spurs to cover this line.
The Spurs will be able to get back on the winners’ list without too many problems on Monday. The Grizzlies simply don’t want to win, and with Evans out they have one of the worst backcourts in the NBA. Aside from Gasol, they have very few other players who can make meaningful contributions, and if he doesn’t play the Spurs will have this game in the bag by the third quarter.
Assuming he does play, he will at least provide an element of entertainment, engaging in an interesting battle with his brother. It won’t be enough though, and the Spurs will run out comfortable 112-98 victors.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSSW and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 8:30pm ET.