With familiarity between the players and coaches rising, the Memphis Grizzlies have put together their first winning streak of the season.
To keep it going, they'll have to knock off their nemesis Friday night when the red-hot San Antonio Spurs return to Memphis.
This is San Antonio's first game there since completing a four-game sweep of the Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals. Including that series as well as a 101-94 win in this season's opener, the Spurs have taken 11 of the past 13 meetings while limiting Memphis to 40.5 percent from the field.
San Antonio (10-1) enters this matchup tied with Portland for the NBA's longest current winning streak at eight games - by an average margin of 12.6 points.
Memphis (7-5), though, did just beat two of the West's top teams - the Clippers and Golden State - to complete a perfect four-game road trip. That win streak may be a sign the Grizzlies are getting the hang of things in rookie coach David Joerger's scheme following a 3-5 start to the season.
"New coach, new offense ... we just have to get used to it," point guard Mike Conley said after Wednesday's 88-81 overtime win over the Warriors. "Now we've been able to figure it out."
Conley, leading Memphis with a career-best 18.8 points per game, will have his hands full on the defensive end with Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Parker was terrific in the West finals, averaging 24.5 points and 9.5 assists, and scored 37 on 15-of-21 shooting in the Game 4 clincher at FedEx Forum.
"They're playing great basketball, so they will be a great test for us," Parker said of the Grizzlies following the Spurs' 104-93 win over Boston on Wednesday.
San Antonio has feasted on the NBA's bottom-feeders for much of its winning streak. Seven of the eight teams the Spurs have defeated since their lone loss are currently under .500.
"You still have to win the games," Parker said. "You don't want to give up games, because it adds up later in the year for home-court. We haven't played the best teams in the league, that's for sure, but you still have to go win in New York and Philly.
"You still have to win games, because the NBA is not easy."
The Grizzlies will be one of the tougher teams the Spurs have faced, especially if Memphis power forward Zach Randolph stays hot. Randolph has been a force during the win streak, scoring more than 20 points in all four games, and has posted five consecutive double-doubles.
"We have to come out, be consistent, and give ourselves a chance," Randolph said. "We know what type of team we've got - we're a good team. So we just have to come out and play."
A career 17.1 points-per-game scorer, Randolph has struggled in recent years versus the Spurs' physical front line. In his last nine games against them, including the playoffs, Randolph is averaging 11.4 points and shooting 32.5 percent from the field. The two-time All-Star was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the season opener.
Six Spurs scored in double figures in that game, led by Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw with 14 apiece. The difference was a second quarter in which San Antonio outscored Memphis 30-7.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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