37-year-old Tim Duncan isn’t your typical aging big man. He is in a world of his own. No matter how strong or how talented his competition is, Duncan will find a way to give himself an advantage. His strong presence is a big reason the Spurs have garnered a 2-0 lead on the Memphis Grizzlies.
Zach Randolph was feeling great in the first two rounds. He brought tremendous energy and was extremely difficult to stop from getting excellent post position. Through the first two rounds, Randolph averaged 19.7 points on 51 percent shooting. However, in the first two games of this series, Randolph has been held to a meager 8.5 points per game on 27 percent shooting.
Zach Randolph is arguably Memphis’ best scorer. The Grizzlies absolutely need him to play well to win this series. When Randolph gets frustrated, the team seems to struggle. The Spurs are doing an amazing job of forcing him to miss tough, contested shots. The Spurs aren’t just playing your average defense. There is a certain strategy they employ to slow down Memphis’ post game.
The first step that Duncan or another defender uses is pushing Randolph away from the basket. If Randolph gets a good angle and positions himself right on the block, it is simple for him to keep scoring. But Duncan and Splitter use their bodies to move Randolph as far away from the hoop as possible. It is tough for Randolph to get off a shot if he isn’t creating separation because he has to shoot over the much longer Tim Duncan.
The Spurs have even held seven-foot-one center, Marc Gasol, to 39 percent shooting in the first two games. Gasol usually doesn’t have a particularly hard time getting his shot off but he settles for jumpers more than Randolph does. Make no mistake; the Spurs certainly need to chase Gasol out there as he has a very sweet stroke. However, they have forced the Grizzlies to settle for lower-percentage outside shots.
Outside shooting is an area the Grizzlies have been known to struggle. Memphis looked comfortable shooting the ball in the first two rounds but it isn’t the same against San Antonio. The Spurs are much more physical than the Thunder and the Clippers were. They do a much better job of protecting the basket, having Tim Duncan. As a result, they make the Grizzlies doubt themselves and take shots that aren’t in their best interest.
Also, beware of the matchup between Tony Parker and Mike Conley. They both like to dribble out the shot clock and find tight spaces in the driving lane. As a defense, it can actually be tougher to stop one of them from getting off a shot in the paint. Memphis has top notch defense but Tony Parker is so crafty with the ball that it is hard for any team to stop him.
On the other hand, don’t let this convince you that this 0-2 hole has the Grizzlies doomed. Memphis actually plays harder when they are down and treats it like a life-or-death situation. Memphis has won all five home games in the playoffs and they have every reason to believe they can even this series at home.