SAN ANTONIO – No one is being called a dog this time.
Nor are the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, who couldn't stop the Memphis Grizzlies from winning their first playoff game in franchise history, shaking things up for Game 2 on Wednesday. The possible return of All-Star Manu Ginobili would be about the only significant difference.
"We did the things we wanted to do and still lost," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
This time last year, Pop didn't let his guys off so easy.
Back then, the Spurs were an underachieving, banged-up No. 7 seed who lost their playoff opener on the road by six to Dallas. Popovich didn't spare his players afterward, ripping them as "dogs" and saying more people needed to "step up and play worth a damn."
The Spurs got the message and ousted the Mavericks in six games. Yet when these 61-win Spurs lost Game 1 on Sunday to Memphis — a No. 8 seed of playoff novices, from coach Lionel Hollins on down — Popovich never appeared flustered.
Not when he thought the Spurs did almost everything right.
They had beaten the Grizzlies on the boards. They committed the fewest turnovers in five meetings with Memphis. Points off turnovers, points in the paint, fast-break points, second-chance points? All season-bests against the Grizzlies.
"If you had told me before the game that we would do all those things, I'd say it was a win," Popovich said.
Instead, the Spurs lost 101-98 as the 33-year-old Ginobili watched from the bench, still resting a sprained right elbow after unsuccessfully lobbying Popovich to let him play. Whether Ginobili, who injured the elbow in the regular-season finale last week, returns for Game 2 likely won't be known until just before tipoff.
The Grizzlies aren't taking any chances. Hollins said he's presuming the Argentine will be in the lineup and give San Antonio its second-leading scorer back.
"He lets Tony Parker be in the corner on the wing, and he handles the ball on the pick and roll, and now he throws it back out and there's Tony Parker — who's a jet — attacking the basket," Hollins said. "They just miss one of their primary playmakers."
Memphis is in uncharted territory. The Grizzlies were swept from their only three other playoff series — the last one in 2006 — and have gone from a team eager to snap a winless streak to one that could become only the fourth No. 8 seed in NBA history to survive the first round.
The Spurs? This situation is much more familiar.
Not only have they lost their last six playoff Game 1s, but in each of their championship runs since 2003, they lost the opener of their first-round series. Most of the 2007 championship team is gone, but the Big 3 and Popovich remain, as well as forward Matt Bonner.
"Every year is different, but every year we won the championship we started with a loss," Parker said. "It's not the first time we lost Game 1, but hopefully it continues to our advantage."
Parker led the Spurs with 20 points in Game 1, and got to the free throw line 16 times but he was just 4 of 16 from the field. George Hill, who started for Ginobili in the backcourt, wasn't any better in shooting just 2 of 7.
"I was pretty mad with myself," Parker said.
The Spurs are counting on their guards after the Grizzlies utterly dominated the frontcourt. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for nearly half of Memphis' points in Game 1 and shot a combined 19 of 25 from the floor.
Randolph said he's expecting more double teams and more of the same looks.
And, this time, to see Ginobili barreling down the lane his way.
"He's the Spurs' best player," Randolph said. "He's left-handed like me. We're both crafty players."