Gasol injury concerns Grizzlies after loss to Spurs

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For the San Antonio Spurs, it was business as usual Friday night. For the MEMPHIS Grizzlies, the season might have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

The Spurs (11-1) defeated the Grizzlies 102-86 for their ninth straight win. They also continued their dominance of the Grizzlies.

The Spurs swept MEMPHIS in the Western Conference Finals and have now won 12 of the last 14 meetings between the regular and postseasons.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies (7-6) grimaced as All-Star center Marc Gasol left the game with a knee injury. Gasol, who came in averaging 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists, limped to the locker room in the first half. The preliminary report was a left knee sprain. Gasol did not return and was to have an MRI on Saturday.

MEMPHIS power Zach Randolph had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and point guard Mike Conley scored a game-high 28 points, but all they could think about was Gasol.

"Praying, praying," Randolph said. "Need him."

Conley, despite his 17 second-half points, said, "I was worried about the big fella; I wasn't worried about picking up the scoring load."

Point guard Tony Parker led the Spurs (11-1) with 20 points -- and 11 of them came in the fourth quarter on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor.

"He's our go-to guy in that situation," said power forward Tim Duncan, who struggled with a 3-for-8 night from the floor and had just eight points.

Although the Grizzlies trailed by 14 at the half, they were tied as late as 3:24 in the third quarter at 61-61 and down just 79-78 with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter. The Spurs closed the game with a 23-8 run, making the Grizzlies earlier run a non-factor.

"They made a run like you expect everyone to do," Duncan said. "It's the NBA; that's how it works."

The Grizzlies viewed the fourth quarter as a movie that they have seen too many times before and that always ends the same way.

"That's the best team in league, maybe the best coach (Gregg Popovich) in the league," Randolph said. "Shoot, what can you say? They do everything right."

San Antonio center Tiago Splitter finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, but Duncan praised his defense.

"He battled with Zach all night and made everything he did hard," Duncan said.

And yeah, that was sort of the plan.

"We've worked a lot on post defense," Popovich said. "It's what we're committed to and with Zach Randolph if you don't play it, he kills you."

The points in the paint were close: Spurs 56, Grizzlies 52. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili finished with 15 points as the bench outscored the Grizzlies' bench 45-18. The Spurs tied their season high with 31 points in the fourth quarter and made 11 of 18 shots from the field (61.1 percent).

MEMPHIS had its four-game winning streak snapped after becoming the first team to sweep a four-game California road swing since the Spurs did it in April 1995. The Grizzlies turned up the defensive intensity out West and were much more efficient on offense.

"The effort was great," guard Mike Miller said of the how the Grizzlies played Friday. "But against a team like the Spurs, it's gotta be more than effort."

If Gasol’s injury is serious, backup center Kosta Koufos, acquired via trade from Denver in the offseason, will be on the spot. Koufos had six points and seven rebounds against the Spurs.

"I just want Marc to be healthy," Koufos said. "(But) I'm prepared for whatever obstacle."

NOTES: PF Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol combined for 43.8 points and 21.0 rebounds as the Grizzlies won all four games on a recent road trip, marking just the second time they swept a trip of four or more games. They beat the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. ... Grizzlies SG Tony Allen returned to action after being ejected early in the Nov. 18 game against the Clippers for a flagrant-2 foul when he jumped into the air and kicked a driving Chris Paul in the face. The league subsequently suspended Allen from a Nov. 20 game at Golden State. ... Spurs PG Tony Parker was averaging a team-high 31.2 minutes per game, PF Tim Duncan was at 28.2 mpg and G Manu Ginobili was at 24.2. "I know how many minutes I want them all to play and we're right on it," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

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