Skip to content

Western Conference Finals preview: Grizzlies vs. Spurs

May 19, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Tony Parker, Zach Randolph

SEASON RECORDS

Memphis: 56-26, fifth seed in the West

San Antonio: 58-24, second seed in the West

PLAYOFF RECORDS

Memphis: Beat the Clippers 4-2 in the first round. Beat the Thunder 4-1 in the second round.

San Antonio: Beat the Lakers 4-0 in the first round. Beat the Warriors 4-2 in the second round.

SEASON SERIES

The teams split the four games with two wins apiece, although both are very different now. In the first three matchups the Grizzlies started Rudy Gay, and in the final meeting, the Spurs started Stephen Jackson and played him 35 minutes. Neither players are with their respective teams anymore, with Gay being traded in late January and Jackson being waived in mid-April.

KEY INJURIES

None.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession) – PLAYOFFS ONLY

Memphis: Offense 104.4 (5th in the postseason), Defense 99.9 (6th in the postseason)

San Antonio: Offense 107.0 (2nd in the postseason), Defense 96.2 (3rd in the postseason)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES:

Point guard matchup: It’s not an understatement to say that the team that gets the better of its point guard matchup is likely to win the series. That’s because both Tony Parker and Mike Conley are extremely vital to what each team does offensively. While Parker often takes on the role of a primary scorer in the current iteration of the Spurs, his dribble penetration and overall performance is what makes his team’s offense go. Parker is averaging 22.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in the postseason.

As important as Parker is, Conley is even more critical in setting up his team’s offense. That’s because Memphis doesn’t have the range of guys who can create their own looks that the Spurs do, and the Grizzlies’ offense has been known to stall for extended stretches even during their impressive postseason run. Conley’s improved play over the second half of the season has carried into the playoffs, and he’ll need to continue to perform at a very high level for his team to succeed.

Battle of the bigs: From a matchup perspective, Memphis would appear to to have the upper hand here — not only in terms the total amount of skill shared between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph versus that of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, but also in terms of sheer bulk. Memphis has the physical size to punish teams both in the paint and on the glass, so it will be crucial for the Spurs’ big men to be in strong position defensively early in possessions to keep Randolph from establishing deep post position. Gasol spends more time at the high post than on the low block, where he’s an excellent facilitator of the Grizzlies offense.

Scoring: Offense will be at a premium in this series. Not only do we have two of the more defensively-focused teams going at it, but each has excellent individual defenders as well as players who have strong basketball IQs and can fit seamlessly into their respective team’s defensive scheme.

The balance of the Spurs and their ability to get contributions from multiple players on this end of the floor should be the difference in this series. Parker’s ability to consistently knock down mid-range jumpers will be huge for San Antonio, as will his effectiveness in getting into the lane to create for drive-and-kick opportunities for his teammates. The Grizzlies have largely gotten by in these playoffs by scoring just enough. If the Memphis defense has more trouble slowing the Spurs offensive attack than it had versus its opponents in the first two rounds, that might not be good enough this time.

OUTLOOK

While the Grizzlies have accomplished a lot in the first two rounds of the playoffs and were impressive at times on the way to the Conference Finals, let’s look at the reality of that last series against the Thunder. OKC was playing without Russell Westbrook, and was thrown into complete disarray in trying to replace what he brings to the table for them offensively. And still, all of those games were extremely close, and could have gone either way in the final minutes.

Expect the Spurs to be much more cohesive as a unit in playing their brand of system basketball than the Thunder were, and expect Memphis to have more difficulty in slowing San Antonio offensively because of it. In a series where both teams can defend, San Antonio should have a much easier time slowing the Grizzlies than the other way around, and it might result in this matchup not being as close as many foresee.

PREDICTION

Spurs in 6.

Latest Posts
  1. Manu Ginobili tweets he’ll play next season

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Manu Ginobli #20 of the San Antonio Spurs gestures to a teammate in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on November 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Can the Spurs keep Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, too? Ginobili must still negotiate a contract

  2. Report: Cavaliers-Nets Joe Johnson trade talks stagnate

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Nobody wants Anderson Varejao and his contract

  3. Report: Nuggets hire Ed Pinckney as assistant coach

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Fred Hoiberg, Ed Pinckney AP

    Michael Malone lands a good lieutenant

  4. Who is left: 15 best free agents still on the board

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    The best guy widely available? David West.

  5. Video: Tyler Johnson hits Summer League game-winner for Heat with .4 on clock

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat

    Whether regular season or Summer League, we love us some buzzer beaters.

  6. Report: Lakers near deal to sign Brandon Bass, may trade Nick Young

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    Brandon Bass, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston AP

    The Lakers will need to move Young to clear the cap space for their other moves.

  7. Report: Cleveland Cavaliers considering trade for Joe Johnson

    Jul 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets

    Dan Gilbert is not afraid to write checks.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (6277)
  2. D. Jordan (4025)
  3. D. Wade (3984)
  4. W. Matthews (3929)
  5. R. Rondo (3457)
  1. K. Bryant (3213)
  2. T. Harris (3137)
  3. R. Lopez (3116)
  4. L. James (3084)
  5. R. Hibbert (2994)