|Spurs, Grizzlies look for improved defense|
The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will look to get back on the winning path when they square off on Monday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Both are coming off their respective worst defensive performances of the season, with the Spurs falling 135-115 at home to the surging Boston Celtics and the Grizzlies dropping a 138-122 home game to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
The shocker of those two results is the lack of aggressive play and defensive execution by the Spurs (5-4), long considered one of the most sound defensive teams in the league. But against the Celtics, San Antonio looked intimidated from the start and ended up being outscored 60-30 in the paint.
Those points in the paint were a season high for a Spurs opponent, as were the 135 points allowed. Boston led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was surprised and disappointed by what he saw from his team Saturday.
"What surprises me is that we were so unaggressive and so unphysical against a team," Popovich said. "I mean, I was excited as hell. My team didn't seem to be as excited. I thought it would be a great night just to go compete against a talented team like that, that's going to be contending in the East. But we really didn't look like that."
DeMar DeRozan and Patty Mills led the Spurs' scoring with 22 and 20 points, respectively, in the loss to Boston while Bryn Forbes (14) and Trey Lyles (10) rounded out San Antonio's double-figure scoring.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who had poured in 39 points in a home win over Oklahoma City on Thursday night, finished with only three against the Celtics and didn't make his lone field goal until 1.3 seconds remained in the third quarter.
Meanwhile in Memphis, the Grizzlies (2-7) struggled at home against Dallas, with the Mavericks' 138 points the most surrendered by Memphis in a game this season. In the most recent three-game stretch, opponents averaged 125.7 points a game against the Grizzlies.
There were plenty of factors that contributed to the loss and the lack of defense, including the fact that the Grizzlies were playing the second game of a road-home back-to-back (they also lost in Orlando on Friday). It was the first of 12 back-to-backs for Memphis this season and the second game in a stretch of four games in six days and the fifth in a stretch of 10 games in 18 days.
"That makes it tough," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. "But back-to-back nights, as we try to solidify this defensive identity about anchoring down, protecting the paint and (no) second-chance points, it's a struggle."
Memphis played without rookie guard Ja Morant, its leading scorer, who took the night off for rest. Also rookie forward Brandon Clarke did not suit up as he tries to take it easy after a back injury that's limited him lately.
The NBA was notified in advance that both players would be out against Dallas.
"At the end of the day, our player care is the most important thing," Jenkins told the (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal. "We want to make sure our guys are always put in successful situations, and it starts with our health and knowing we're doing everything possible for them on and off the court."
The Spurs and Grizzlies split the 2018-19 season series 2-2, marking the third time in the past five years that the teams did so. San Antonio owns a 71-24 all-time edge over the Grizzlies.
--Field Level Media