Tenacious defense was one of the Memphis Grizzlies' biggest strengths in 2012-13 during their best season ever.
The same couldn't be said of their first game this season, particularly in terms of interior defense.
They'll try to get back on track in Friday night's home opener against the Detroit Pistons, who had their way in the paint while starting in winning fashion.
Memphis won a franchise-record 56 games last season and reached its first ever conference finals. The Grizzlies relied on a stingy defense that ranked among the best, allowing a league-low 89.3 points per game while limiting opponents to averages of 43.5 percent shooting and 38.0 points in the paint.
But they were outscored 50-40 in the paint in Wednesday's 101-94 loss at San Antonio, which swept them out of the playoffs. They let teams score 50-plus in the paint eight times all of last season, with three coming against Denver.
Memphis also let the Spurs shoot 52.6 percent from the field and score 19 fast-break points. The Grizzlies limited teams to an average of 12.4 points on the break last season.
"We let so many points come behind our back," said Tony Allen, who scored a team-high 15. "Whether it's made baskets or missed baskets. Off the rebound they just kept pushing, they had the momentum and they did a good job of executing as a team."
The Pistons outscored Washington 56-28 in the paint in a 113-102 home win Wednesday. Greg Monroe finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds while Andre Drummond added 12 and eight, respectively.
Josh Smith added firepower to the frontcourt, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. He's shooting 58.5 percent over his last 15 games against Memphis.
"It was picture perfect for me," Smith said of his Detroit debut.
Chauncey Billups finished with 16 points - 10 in the fourth quarter - in his first game as a Piston in five seasons.
"It feels like old times," said Billups, the NBA finals MVP in 2004 when Detroit won its last championship. "The energy in this building sounded familiar. I hadn't seen that in a while around here. It felt really good."
Detroit's win came despite being short-handed, as Brandon Jennings isn't likely to play until at least next week due to an impacted wisdom tooth and fractured jaw. Rodney Stuckey also sat out with a broken right thumb but is expected to play Friday.
The Grizzlies will try to avoid another offensive slump like it saw in Wednesday's second quarter when they were outscored 30-7, missing their first 10 shots and finishing 2 for 18 from the field in the period.
Zach Randolph was 1 for 6 on the night with two points.
Mike Conley is averaging 15.0 points on 63.4 percent shooting with 8.0 assists and 4.3 steals over his last four games versus Detroit.
The Grizzlies have won seven straight in the series by an average of 13.6 points. They outscored the Pistons 62-46 and 48-40 in the paint in two meetings last season.
Detroit lost 13 of its first 15 road games in 2012-13.
The Associated Press News Service
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