The Memphis Grizzlies have climbed their way up the ladder throughout the past few years. They are finally here. The Western Conference Semifinals. On the other hand, the San Antonio Spurs are here once again. Memphis has been exceptional throughout the first two rounds. There really isn’t a clear favorite in this series as both teams are extremely tough and have winning atmospheres.
What San Antonio needs to do to win: The Spurs need to bring their absolute best post defense. The Grizzlies wore down their first two opponents by consistently going to the post game. Tim Duncan and other post defenders need to stand tall and protect their ground. The Spurs really need to limit Memphis’ second chance points. The Grizzlies have shown their ability to take advantage of that and it is a big reason they win games. On offense, the Spurs just need to be all-around efficient. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard must continue to nail those spot-up jumpers. San Antonio needs to keep utilizing the pick-and-roll where Tony Parker is one of the league’s most dangerous players. Tim Duncan needs to be himself in the post and not worry too much about who is defending him. Putting Marc Gasol in a position to be in foul trouble will really help the Spurs’ chances in this series.
What Memphis needs to do to win: Attack, attack, and attack some more. Memphis has found it’s offense in the playoffs by pounding the ball inside. Present a challenge for Tim Duncan by feeding both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph down low several times a game. Tim Duncan usually doesn’t budge down low and will proudly handle whatever task he is given. However, Memphis needs to continually go at him because they have nothing to lose by doing so. Memphis needs to continue their stellar defense. San Antonio can be extremely difficult to defend at times. Tony Parker is a serious weapon when he has space to dribble. Memphis needs to be ready to pick him up when he comes off the screen as he will immediately look to score if he has any space. Heckling Tony Parker will help to put the pace of the game in the Grizzlies’ favor. We could see some Tony Allen on Parker.
Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter vs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph: I put each player together because Memphis is definitely going to try to take advantage of whoever Splitter is guarding. Splitter is a very hard worker and respectable defender but he doesn’t have the strength to guard Randolph or length to guard Gasol. Tim Duncan has to do his job. He needs to be a double-double player in this series. Duncan can only do so much but he’ll have to maximize his impact against the dynamic duo of Randolph and Gasol.
Tony Parker vs. Mike Conley: Mike Conley has been outstanding in the playoffs thus far. He practically matched Chris Paul in the first round and he controlled Reggie Jackson is the second round. Now is not the time to shy away. Tony Parker is going to be his biggest challenge of the playoffs. Parker is going to make Conley work a ton when Conley is on defense and hope that Conley shows fatigue on offense. We know Tony Parker is usually a great mid-range shooter but Conley has stepped in and felt great about his jumpshot lately. It is a given that Conley needs to focus on getting other teammates involved but continuing to be an outside threat will make him that much better.
Manu Ginobili vs. Tony Allen: This is a huge matchup. Tony Allen has been a madman thus far and he loves getting under the skin of his opponent. Manu Ginobili has not shot the ball particularly well in the playoffs. Ginobili will definitely shoot when he is given space but he needs to often drive to the hoop. Ginobili has been really effective in his career with his crafty moves to the basket. But against Tony Allen, you have to work twice as hard for everything.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green’s young legs: Tayshaun Prince has had a plate full of duties. He had to guard Kevin Durant most of the time last round and that certainly took a lot out of him. Leonard and Green are both very active players. Leonard gives his opponent no rest and he also consistently hits open outside shots. Danny Green is one of the league’s most efficient three point shooters. Both of these guys could very well tire out Memphis and make them struggle on both ends of the floor.
Memphis has a lot of momentum. San Antonio also has a fair amount of momentum. But, most importantly, they have experience. They know exactly what they have to do and when to carry out certain tasks. Memphis’ physical defense and dominant post game has gotten it’s way but San Antonio often finds a way to slow down a team’s strong suit.
Then again, Memphis could just be too much for San Antonio. Memphis has a full roster that is ready to exceed expectations. Their starters have been excellent and their bench has also provided a big spark in the playoffs. Maybe they will wear down the Spurs to the point that there is nothing more the Spurs can do.
I’ll give a slight edge to the experience. Spurs win in seven games.
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