Skip to content

NBA Playoffs: Grizzlies win the day, but is their success sustainable?

Apr 17, 2011, 6:34 PM EDT

Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur

The Memphis Grizzlies did it. They made big play after big play down the stretch on Sunday afternoon, and secured a 1-0 series lead against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, not to mention scored their first playoff win in franchise history. The victory was a tremendous achievement on several levels, and yet even the Grizzlies’ day in the sun seems fleeting; Game 2 will likely mark the return of Manu Ginobili, and though Memphis is still equipped to compete, a Ginobili-infused Spurs team presents an entirely new kind of challenge. The poor, hungry Grizzlies faithful and underdog bandwagoners alike should cherish this moment while they can, because we’re in for a fundamentally different matchup once Ginobili takes the court.

Case in point: the Spurs’ dreadfully poor shooting. San Antonio posted an effective field goal percentage of just 44.3 percent, and while Ginobili’s typically efficient scoring alone would boost that number, his very presence should also bring less direct shooting gains. Ginobili’s drives demand the full attention of opposing defenses, which should grant the Spurs’ sharpshooters even more open opportunities. Plus, Ginobili is a deadly enough shooter in his own right that his presence on the perimeter prevents opponents from cheating off of him to help against Tony Parker or Tim Duncan.

Yet above all, the most compelling reason for San Antonio to bounce back on offense is the lofty anchor of the Spurs’ season-long averages. San Antonio posted a higher effective field goal percentage than any team in the NBA this season, while the Grizzlies defense ranked 18th in effective field goal percentage allowed. This isn’t some perfect cocktail of defensive factors to cripple one of the league’s top offenses, but merely a momentary hiccup in the Spurs’ otherwise stellar offensive performance. They’ll climb back because the players, the coach, and the system involved are just that good, and when they do, the Grizz could be in a bit of trouble.

Yet Memphis has their own unique advantages on the front line, as the combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph proved too big and too productive for Tim Duncan’s big man counterparts. DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, and Matt Bonner all struggled defensively, and Gasol and Randolph — who scored a combined 49 points on 19-of-25 shooting shooting while grabbing 23 total rebounds — had a field day. The problems with those three aren’t exactly based in execution, either; Blair, McDyess, and Bonner could all stand to play better, but their biggest weaknesses stem from their lack of size, lack of mobility, and lack of overall athleticism, respectively. Those aren’t elements that are going to change between Games 1 and 2, and the brilliant efficiency of Randolph and Gasol should endure so long as the Grizzly big men are committed to exploiting mismatches.

Beyond Gasol and Randolph, Memphis benefited from a solid performance by Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo balancing his poor decision making with three-point marksmanship, timely scoring by Shane Battier, an impressive team defensive front against Tony Parker, and the occasional moments of Tony Allen heroism. It was a total performance championed by two of the Grizzlies’ finest, but a similar showing in the games to come unfortunately may not be enough. If the Grizz are to steal any more games from the Spurs after Ginobili’s return, they’ll have to be even better. The fouling — though mostly due to an overly anxious officiating crew in Game 1 — will have to be reined in. The shooting from all over the floor must remain pristine, and Memphis’ supplementary scorers will have to become even more efficient. It took quite a bit going right for the Grizz to steal Game 1, but this was the game they stood the greatest chance of winning. Now comes the real test, and Memphis’ chance to really throw a wrench into this series’ works.

Good work so far, Grizzlies. Now let’s see what you’ve got.

Latest Posts
  1. 67RIEFNS No. 7: Warriors’ starting lineup

    Oct 2, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry Stephen Curry

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season and return for more

  2. Does Serge Ibaka know who Mitch McGary is?

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    2014 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day 2014 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day

    Thunder forward says he doesn’t (unless he’s joking like Kevin Martin)

  3. D-League considers rule change: Players attempt one free throw on all trips to line

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dwight Howard Dwight Howard

    Get fouled on a missed 2-pointer – one free throw worth two points
    Get fouled on a missed 3-pointer – one free throw worth three points

  4. Injury updates: Lakers Ryan Kelly, Jazz’s Carrick Felix both out for a while

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Media Day Getty Images

    Two young players trying to prove to new coaches they deserved minutes. This is a real setback for both.

  5. LeBron co-producing children’s show about beginnings of himself, other top athletes

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT

    LeBron James LeBron James

    The show is on Disney XD. I suppose there are worse things your child could watch.

  6. Phil Jackson compared J.R. Smith to Dennis Rodman. Smith likes that.

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    J.R. Smith AP

    Thing is, Rodman fit the triangle and what Jackson wants to do with a team. Smith…. not so much.

  7. Greg Monroe calls offseason rumors surrounding him ‘lies’

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT

    Greg Monroe Greg Monroe

    Monroe had a busy offseason in terms of appearances in the NBA’s news cycle.

  8. Rajon Rondo doesn’t rule out opening night return for Celtics

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.

  9. K.J. McDaniels takes unique approach to rookie contract with Sixers

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

    Second round pick foregoing additional guaranteed dollars in order to bet on himself.

  10. Klay Thompson refutes report he was ‘pissed’ about being included in trade talks for Kevin Love

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Klay Thompson Klay Thompson

    Reminder not to believe everything you read, especially if it’s attributed to ‘a source.’

  11. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets Media Day Charlotte Hornets Media Day

    The new-look Hornets, with Lance Stephenson in tow, are hoping to build on a playoff run and a promising young core.

  12. Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Kobe wants to shake the rust off before the games count for real later this month.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (3796)
  2. K. Bryant (3525)
  3. R. Rondo (3304)
  4. R. Allen (2435)
  5. D. Wade (2366)
  1. D. Williams (2307)
  2. N. Noel (2074)
  3. K. Leonard (1996)
  4. M. Smart (1943)
  5. D. Rose (1938)