If there was any question the San Antonio Spurs desperately need Tim Duncan to maintain dominance of the Western Conference, let Sunday's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies answer that. The Spurs' prospective first-round opponent bullied their way around on offense to take a 111-104 win; Memphis has certainly learned how to win without Rudy Gay, and now has back-to-back victories over the Celtics and Spurs. George Hill scored 30 off the bench for San Antonio, but Memphis' starting five vastly outplayed that of the Spurs.
Zach Randolph and Tony Allen had 23 each, with the former Celtic doing his damage on 9-10 shooting. As a team the Grizzlies shot 54 percent, and had 13 offensive rebounds in 30 opportunities. Memphis is a good rebounding team, but so are the (healthy) Spurs, and the inability of Antonio McDyess, Tiago Splitter and Richard Jefferson to seal off the defensive glass was painful.
Duncan would certainly make a huge difference if the teams do meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs; he's expected to return soon. Memphis went 2-2 against San Antonio this season, with the home team winning every game. Can the Grizzlies steal one in the playoffs? Two? Can they give us a series?
In other action:
Thunder 99, Blazers 90: The Thunder survived Gerald Wallace's 40-point barrage to clinch a playoff bid. Hurrah! Russell Westbrook scored 28, hitting four of five three-pointers. Kevin Durant had five blocks and three steals.
Celtics 85, Wolves 82: Boston's offense is in a really, really bad way right now. Shooting 40 percent against Minnesota is inexcusable. Paul Pierce (who struggled early) had to bail the Celtics out late in the fourth.
Heat 125, Rockets 119: Defense was the issue for Miami, who gave up 68 to Houston in the first half. The Heat defense settled in as the game wore on, and the offense was never a problem: each of the three All-Stars hit the 30-point mark. The Rockets are the new Suns.
Kings 114, Sixers 111 (OT): Sacramento dealt a blow to Philadelphia's dreams of catching the Hawks for the No. 5 seed. Marcus Thornton had 28 in the second half (19 in the third quarter) as the Kings hung around and eventually won it in overtime. DeMarcus Cousins had a hand in 11 of the Kings' 14 overtime points.
Warriors 114, Wizards 104: Golden State survived a monster game from JaVale McGee (28 points, 18 rebounds, five blocks) as David Lee himself went large (33 points, 12 rebounds) and Monta Ellis went nuts (37 points, 13 assists) in playing all 48 minutes. Why is a veteran guard playing all 48 minutes for a team 10 games under .500, with no shot at the playoffs, in the last week of March? Good question!