<
>

Spurs finish easy sweep of short-handed Grizzlies

MEMPHIS -- The San Antonio Spurs finally broke the spirited-but-wounded Memphis Grizzlies, defeating the short-handed home team 116-95 on Sunday to complete a 4-0 sweep in the first-round series.

The victory gives Spurs coach Gregg Popovich his ninth sweep in a best-of-seven series, which broke a tie with Phil Jackson for the most in NBA history.

San Antonio utilized a punishing third quarter in which it outscored the Grizzlies 37-21 while connecting on 14 of 22 shots. Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 21 points to go with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Leonard averaged 21.5 points per game in this series, which is his best average in any playoff series of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Here are some observations from Sunday’s game:

Rest not necessarily good: While San Antonio receives an opportunity to rest some of its players as it preps for the next round, that’s not necessarily what the Spurs want as they look to catch a groove. Throughout San Antonio’s first-round series, the club struggled somewhat offensively, and believe it or not, that’s partly a result of a little too much rest toward the end of the regular season.

San Antonio hasn’t put together a dominant performance since a March 23 win over the Miami Heat. Two days after that game, San Antonio clinched the second seed and immediately started to rest key players down the stretch. Just before the regular season ended, the Spurs started to try to play some of the regulars to get the group operating at peak efficiency to start the postseason. But injuries to LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw affected the team’s efforts, as did the rest. Offensively, the Spurs are a little out of sync.

Still, Popovich did say on Sunday that the team’s progression into the rhythm he seeks has gone “so far, so good.”

San Antonio’s starters averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game against the Grizzlies, which ranks as the fewest minutes per game by starters that a Popovich squad has had in the opening round.

Big 3 well rested: Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker finished Game 4 having played no more than 27 minutes in any game during the series against the Grizzlies. This contest also marked Duncan’s first series in which he didn’t score 10 points in any game.

Out of action: The Spurs ruled out Kevin Martin (flu) for Game 3 and he didn’t dress for Sunday’s outing, although he was behind the bench with teammates in street clothes. Martin played in the first two games of the series, averaging 10 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

A late addition to the roster, Martin is expected to be a key bench contributor in the playoffs as he’s adjusted quickly to San Antonio’s system.

What’s next: Rest. The Spurs will return Sunday evening to San Antonio, where they will await their second-round opponent -- most likely the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lead the Dallas Mavericks 3-1 in their opening-round series.