Blog Entry

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

Posted on: April 15, 2011 12:28 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 12:36 pm
Our first-round series previews continue with this look at Memphis vs. San Antonio. Are the Spurs the grizzled defensive team of old? Can Tony Allen do anything to disrupt Manu? 
Posted by Matt Moore

I. Intro

If the playoffs were one giant game show, Grizzlies-Spurs is the box with the gigantic question mark on it. Are the Spurs as good as their record indicates? Because if they are, this thing's going to be over in about forty-five seconds. Are the Grizzlies able to translate that toughness to the playoffs and is San Antonio in a weak spot with an injured Manu Ginobili and some defensive questions? Because if that's the case, this thing could go the distance. We just don't know. The Spurs have so much experience. The Grizzlies are playing with so much emotion. The Spurs are an elite offensive team. The Grizzlies are a great defensive team. Tim Duncan. Zach Randolph. Manu Ginobili. Tony Allen's abject insanity. Good benches, good coaches. This one has all the makings of a great series. It's a 1 seed vs. the 8 seed. Which means it could be terrible. 

We don't know anything. We're waiting for both of these teams to define themselves. We're pretty sure San Antonio's going to win, because they're better with better players. But Memphis has been on such a roll, has such good chemistry, has size and good wing play and attack the rim. Trying to decipher this series is maddening, but that also means it could be fun, even if it's a sweep. 

II. What Happened: A Look at the Season Series

The Spurs only lost 21 games. Two of them were to Memphis. One was a tank game at the end of the season, though. Memphis averaged 103 points against San Antonio, who only scored 101. Both teams won their home games. The Spurs took the first two meetings, the Grizzlies the last two. Three of the meetings were after the trade deadline acquisition of Battier for Memphis. 

You want a weird one? Both of Memphis' wins over the Spurs came after Rudy Gay was lost for the season. 

Other than that? It's a bizarre amalgam of information from those games. The Spurs won when Tony Parker scored 37. They won when Parker scored 2. Memphis won a slow paced game, lost a slow paced game, won a fast paced game, lost a fast paced game. The Spurs won when they shot over 50 percent, and lost when they shot over 50 percent (the tank game). Memphis won when they controlled the rebounding battle, and lost when they controlled the rebounding battle. There is literally no discernible pattern other than individual matchup advantages that were at times expressed and at times not expressed. 

The consistent theme is that Zach Randolph's going to get his. He plugged in 24, 24, 23, and 21. That's predictable, considering Randolph's consistency in the 20-10 game. But the fact that Randolph's production isn't tied to Memphis winning has to be a concern for the Grizzlies. 

III. The Easy Stuff: Manu vs. the Yin-Yang

Manu Ginobili is one of the toughest covers in the NBA. Tony Allen and Shane Battier are two of the best defenders in the league. Manu has the Euro-step. Battier and Allen are obsessed with tape review to figure out tendencies. This is a huge matchup to watch. Ginobili will need to be in full flop mode. If he can frustrate Allen by drawing fouls via flop, Allen will start to gamble more. Given his penchant for falling for the pump-fake, it may not be too difficult for Ginobili to do that quickly. Against Battier, Manu has more speed advantage, and the Grizzlies' frontcourt help defense is not good. 

For Memphis, the key here needs to be to deny the ball. Ball pressure has to be a key part of their attack on Ginobili. They can't bring help at the elbow, due to the Spurs' plethora of shooters. So they have to focus on keeping the ball out of his hand, which is nearly impossible when they set the offense with Manu as ball-handler in the deep backcourt. The Grizzlies focus on turnovers, and Ginobili's turnover rate is the lowest of his career (that factors how many possessions he uses). If Hollins doesn't figure out a way to attack Ginobili at the elbow on the drive before he slips low (where he is nearly impossible to defend), he's going to hurt Memphis in a big, big way. 

IV. Secret of the Series: Underground seating

Memphis does not have a good bench. But they may have advantages against the Spurs. Matt Bonner is a terrific 3-point shooter, but who is he going to defend? Zach Randolph will bury him. Darrell Arthur is both faster and stronger. Antonio McDyess is a capable defender, and he could have a huge impact in this series. George Hill has had a great season, but with Battier and Mayo coming off the Bench, there are answers. Darrell Arthur is a big secret for Memphis. He's not only strong and quick, but he has a reliable mid-range from 18. Stretch bigs give the Spurs fits, and if Conley and Arthur start to operate in space, and that jumper falls for Arthur, that's some damage that could be done. 

It'll be interesting to see if the Spurs start McDyess to cover Randolph, giving Duncan the less offensive-focused Marc Gasol. In that situation, DeJuan Blair would come off the bench. Blair's defensive issues are problematic, but he could neutralize the boards advantage for Memphis. Do that and the Grizzlies lose some of their umph. Lineups and rotations will go a long way in deciding this series.


Anyone, and I mean anyone, who spins this yarn at you, needs to go. I've talked about the Spurs' defensive slide on this site quite a bit, and there's been no dramatic shift in the other direction. The Spurs simply don't have the personnel they used to. Gone are the veteran wing defenders like Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen. Instead George Hill, who has great speed and is a terrific offensive player, is asked to play in a reserve two-guard role often. Richard Jefferson has solid length, but isn't an elite defender. DeJuan Blair doesn't have the length or explosion to defend bigger players in the post, and is still young as to not have the savvy experience necessary to overcome those limitations. He'll get there, but he's not there yet.

Every year prior, if you asked who had a better defensive efficiency, the Spurs or their first-round opponent, you'd automatically answer "San Antonio." But this year? The Grizzlies are 8th in defensive efficiency. The Spurs? 11th. This doesn't mean the Spurs won't win, or that they won't find that extra defensive playoff gear. It just means that going into this series, the Spurs are not that old, veteran tough team they're always known to be. 

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each matchup?

PG: Tony Parker has terrific speed on the perimeter. Mike Conley has made huge strides this season, but he routinely gets blown by faster guards.  Conley will probably get his fair share of points and assists, but Parker's ability to dominate this matchup is unquestionable. Advantage: Parker.

SG: We discussed above, but it should be put this way. Manu Ginobili is a championship caliber wing with savvy, speed and great scoring ability. This is a no-brainer. Advantage: Manu.

SF: The Grizzlies run Sam Young and Tony Allen in tandem at the 2/3 spots. Young has added bulk and been taken under TA's wing this season. But Jefferson has about a million more moves. Young will be more aggressive, but that will also lead to leaving Jefferson open in the corner, where he's become deadly (highest 3-point percentage of his career). Jefferson get the nod here. 

PF: Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time. Zach Randolph is a top five power forward in the league right now. And neither will guard each other much in this series. We're going to give the nod to Duncan, only, and we stress only, for his defensive impact. Randolph is a poor defender, Duncan is still strongest. Advantage: Duncan.

C: Marc Gasol is constantly the most underrated center in the league. McDyess is a solid veteran defender. DeJuan Blair is a nice rebounder and put-back machine. Neither is seven-feet tall with the ability to run the pinch post, nail the open 16-footer consistently, pass well out of the post and attack the offensive glass as easily as Gasol. Plus his beard is mighty. Advantage: Gasol. 

Bench: We just got through telling you the Grizzlies have some matchup advantages on the Spurs on the bench. But the Grizzlies bring off Ish Smith and Hamed Haddadi. Advantage: Spurs. 

Coach: We'd comment more thoroughly on this, but we're afraid Popovich will make fun of us. Advantage: Popovich.

VII. Conclusion

When you have a matchup that becomes as complicated and confusing when you get in the details as this one, you have to take a step back and look at the simple picture. The Spurs have had one of their best seasons ever. They have championship players. They have Hall of Famers. They have a Hall of Fame coach. They are an elite offensive team that understands what they have to do defensively to win. They have experience, where the Grizzlies have almost none. The Spurs are the top seed in the West versus the 8th seed. 

It wouldn't surprise many to see Memphis take two games in this series. It also wouldn't surprise many to see a sweep by the Spurs. I'll aim for the middle. A five-game gentleman's sweep, which means Memphis wins a playoff game, and that's a step forward for the franchise. Prediction: Spurs in 5. 

Since: May 29, 2007
Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:21 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

Great game for the Grizzlies, it's really nice to see them get their first playoff win in 13 tries.  Don't worry about us Spurs fans won't worry too much about losing one game in the series.


Here's why:


1) Anyone that watches the NBA knows that the reason Coach Pop is a future HOF coach is because he can make adjustments between games in the playoffs especially on 2 days rest.


2) Manu is a difference maker and no one will doubt that no matter how big a Spurs hater they are.  When he doesn't play we lose offense and defensive not to mention the emotional boost he brings to the team.


3) Lets not forget that the Spurs have lost the first game in the opening round the past 6 years.  Yes that includes 2 Championship years!!!


So with that said congratulations to the Grizzlies organization and their fans for their win and have a good luck on the rest of the series.

Since: Nov 18, 2009
Posted on: April 18, 2011 8:40 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

Glad to see the Grizz showed the country why they are the scariest high seed in the league.  Anybody still think the Spurs will win easy.  How about you shoot 47 free throws at home, and lose, out rebound a team that never gets out rebounded, and lose, don't turn the ball over against the best steals team in the league, and still lose, out score the Grizz in the paint and nobody does that, and still lose.  It's going to take more than Manu to fix this issue.  If you are a Spurs fan you should be worried that the Grizz did not do anything they are good at, and still beat you on your home floor.  Let's see if we can come home with a 2-0 lead...

Since: May 30, 2009
Posted on: April 17, 2011 10:38 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

After watching nearly all of the Grizzlies games I see a much improved team. No need to add anything about the Spurs as I consider them to be one of the best teams of all time. They just win. Not to take a thing away from Rudy Gay as I consider him to be a really good player and a upcoming great player, but the Grizzlies got better as a unit when Rudy went down. Now when this happened as a must do they came together more as a unit. I saw a tremendous improvement in each and every player. Marc Gasol has turned into a truely fine center and some rankings have him ahead of some of the centers that I thought he would never pass. The Grizzlies have added so much to help the team with Allen and Battier. Randolph is in a league of his own. The one thing that happened by accident that really helped this team was when the trade with Indiana concerning O J Mayo fell though. Mayo has the ability to be the difference if this goes seven games. The Grizzlies can play hard inside and they can score in the paint. They are a solid defensive unit and we all know that the Spurs are also. So if these games go low scoring the Grizzlies have a shot. They must figure out something to reduce the three point shots from the Spurs. The Grizzlies have a good and deep bench, which if it goes seven might make a difference. Mike Conley will be the big key for the Grizzlies. If he heats up and drives inside and feeds Randolph and Gasol look out. I think the Grizzlies have the best shot in years for a 8 to take a 1.

Since: Nov 11, 2006
Posted on: April 17, 2011 2:17 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

I didn't mention Rudy Gay, as he will not be playing anymore this year.  The Spurs will be at full strength (or do you know something about Rudy that I don't?).

Since: Sep 20, 2009
Posted on: April 17, 2011 1:54 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

No question, that anyone can be got, but keep on pointing out that the Spurs have OLD Timmy.  His minutes may have been down this season, but not his production.  You can get any stats geek to prove his per minutes are the same as always.  Guess what else?  OLD Timmy won't be playing regular season minutes during the playoffs -- the bank will be open 24/7 and you can believe that!

Z-Bo will be a beast and most likely the next media darling because of it, but the Spurs have had match-up problems in the past and still found ways to finish the job.  The Griz will be a great challenge and make this thing an entertaining ride, but this is not an over-confident 60-win team in San Antonio.  Just so you know.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:45 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

OSUFootball, you mentioned that they have won with old lineups in the past and they have been old since their dynasty began.  But the reason for the dynasty was one player:  Tim Duncan.  They won their 4 titles when he was not old.  D Robinson was old, but he won nothing until Duncan and Duncan won twice after Robinson retired.  BUt since 2007, he has lost a lot in his game and his legs are that of a player older than 34.  He may not have taken the beating this year, but that was because they got off to such a hot start and since they clinched the best record long ago, Popovich was able to rest him more this year.  Plus, he has been the third scoring option of the Big Three.  They should beat the Grizz, but they are going to give them a fight.  This team is different from their championship teams in one big way:  those teams were feared for their tough defense.  This team has an average defense at best.  If Bynum is healthy, they do not beat the Lakers in a 7 game series and even OKC can beat them.  They cooled off the last month or so of the season and their age had something to do with it.  Manu being injured this early is way better than past the first round.  If he is hurt past the first round, this team has little chance.  Duncan is an old 34 who has a lot of miles on his legs for someone his age due to all the long playoff runs, McDyess has taken a beating, Manu has always been injury prone, and Parker has lots of miles on him for his age.  The idea of the window closing for them never happened because first they had Robinson in his prime and then they drafted a future first ballot hall of famer in Duncan who won them 4 titles in 9 years.  But he took a big step back this year and I cannot see him getting any better.  Unless they tank a season like when Robinson got hurt and get the #1 pick, they will not find Duncan's replacement.  They may have had the best record, but no one is picking them to win because they kind of stumbled at the end and they are old.  Their best chance is this year or next and then they will need to rebuild.  But, Popovich is a great coach and they know how to build a team there.  So if this team falls, it would not be for long.  As far as this year, they win against Memphis in six and the 2nd round will depend on the opponent.

Since: Nov 18, 2009
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:30 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

I am not sure the author actually watched the Grizzlies play this year.  First, to say the bench is bad is stupid.  Mayo and Arthur have been great and are two of the best bench players in the league.  I actually think our bench is better than the Spurs bench.  To even make the comment about Ish and Haddadi shows his ignorance.  That is not who we bring of the bench.  That is who we brought off the bench the last tow games of the year, which by the way we were trying to lose.  To call Tim Duncan an advantage over Randolph is a great prediction, 7 years ago.  I was excited about reading this article until I realized that the author has no idea what he is talking about.  Grizz in 6 is the answer.  

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:07 am

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

And the two games Memphis won they were without Rudy Gay.  Everyone keeps mentioning how SA wasn't at full strenght against Memphis, well ditto for the Grizz.  

Since: Nov 11, 2006
Posted on: April 16, 2011 11:12 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal***

To reference Phil Jackson, this article needs a few asterisks.
12/28: SAS 112, MEM 1062/27: SAS 95, MEM 88 *3/1: MEM 109, SAS 93 **3/27: MEM 111, SAS 104 ***
* - Tony Parker left game in 2Q with injury.** - Tony Parker out with injury*** - Tim Duncan did not play
Memphis has not played a full-game against the starting Spurs line-up since December.  Factor in Parker's & Duncan's PPG Avg into the last two games, and the Spurs sweep the series.  
OBTW: If Matt Moore wanted to see a predicting stat, look at turn-over numbers for the Spurs. It is well documented that when they turn the ball over, they struggle to win. 

Since: Mar 29, 2008
Posted on: April 16, 2011 3:33 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs Preview: Quick and brutal

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