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Spurs-Grizzlies Game 1: San Antonio comes out firing

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

SAN ANTONIO -- It's all connected, with the San Antonio Spurs. They make you pay with a string of execution that forces you into a string of decisions, each worse than the one before it. In their dominant victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs started with a simple concept.

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Run the pick and roll aggressively with star point guard Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, attacking the basket with Parker and spreading the floor with Duncan to knock down mid-range shots.

"Tony and Tim did a great job in the pick and roll," Spurs guard Danny Green said after the game. "With Tony coming off and Tim hitting shots. When they're hitting those, they have to rotate help, it leaves us open. We did a good job of moving the basketball, finding each other, trusting each other."

And lo, the floodgates opened and the Spurs found their perimeter game, which had been less explosive all playoffs.

"We did a good job of moving the ball," forward Matt Bonner said, "attacking to collapse the defense and then kicking it to the open man. Obviously we shot the ball great."

He ain't lying.

"This is what we do. This is who we are. Historically most of our shots from three come after we get into the paint," Manu Ginobili said later. "Today was not the exception."

So you've forced the defense to react with the pick and roll. But why was the perimeter so open, with the Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol inside?

Two questions.

Did the Grizzlies over-help from the edges? And what did the Spurs do to force the Memphis bigs up and away from the switch to help on Parker's drives?

"Tony did a great job coming off picks and finding the corners," Green said. "I don't think it was on purpose that they [over-helped], it's just the defensive rotations to try and help each other to stop Tony from getting to the basket."

Green admitted he was a "little surprised" the Grizzlies were helping off so much. Memphis point guard Mike Conley didn't hedge at all in his description of their coverage.

"We definitely did [overhelp]," Conley said with some clear disappointment in his voice. "There were times when the help was a little bit too much. We pride ourselves on defense, and we concerned ourselves too much with Tony Parker and trying to double and triple-team him. He was finding guys."

So why were the bigs caught out of position to help on Parker? Both Conley and Memphis coach Lionel Hollins pointed to the Spurs' use of Matt Bonner (4-for-7, 12 points, 4-for-6 from three) as a key in getting Memphis' defense out of whack.

"Tony's obviously very deceptive, you don't know if he's going either way," Conley said. "But when they're running screens with Matt Bonner, it's hard to have our bigs show and recover back to Matt Bonner who's shooting the ball so well. So then the bigs aren't going to help the guards because they're worried about Bonner. And their spacing is so great and they have so many shooters. "

So it starts with Tony Parker being aggressive, it moves to the shooters knocking down shots to prevent the help from deterring their actions, then it moves to the Spurs using a shooter to spread the floor and keep the bigs from showing on the guards. And it all spirals from there.

"We were over-helping at times and they were making shots. We have to do better next game," Grizzlies reserve guard Jerryd Bayless said.

That's how you gameplan against the best defense in the Western Conference, that's how you execute to hit a franchise-record 14 3-pointers, and that's how you take a 1-0 series lead in the Conference Finals. It doesn't hurt that the Spurs' shooters understand their role and how important it is for them to make shots.

"This is the Western Conference Finals, "Green said. "You gotta go out firing."

In Game 1, it was cannons loaded for the Spurs, in a dominant performance that put Memphis' defense on its heels, then its butt, then out the door.

Game 2 is Tuesday in San Antonio.

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