Explaining that one game means nothing is a safe, mojo conducive way to proceed. I understand it, but I can't do it. I picked the Spurs in a sweep because I think they are significantly better than this version of the Grizzlies. Game 1 affirmed a lot of my thoughts. If things go horribly wrong, feel free to come back and poke fun.
Defensively, all of their bigs, aside from Marc Gasol, are deficient at guarding against the pick and roll. In Game 1, Pop put every one of their bigs in the PnR except for Gasol. It was brilliant and I don't know how Memphis is going to stop the Spurs from pick and rolling them to death. If they begin to trap, that'll turn into more open 3-pointers for the Spurs. The Spurs make open 3-pointers. They can struggle with contested threes, but make no mistake, if Memphis gives them wide open threes those 14 made 3-pointers in Game 1 will not be a one time event. If Tony and Manu can get into the paint at will, and there's no reason to expect different, the ball movement and open shots will be there.
Offensively, Memphis is one-dimensional because they only have one long distance shooter in Quincy Pondexter, 47% from three in the playoffs. The Spurs' defense is very good. If the opposition can't even keep the Spurs honest, how are they going to score?
Mike Conley and Tony Allen both are shooting 29% from distance in the playoffs. Dooling is at 33%, Bayless 31% and Prince is at 25%. The Spurs will continue to front the post with help waiting on the backside and dare the Grizzlies to shoot. The only chance Memphis has is for one of their poor shooters to get hot or for Gasol and Zach to make a high percentage of contested 18-footers. That scares me a little, because I still have nightmares of Zach hitting those shots in 2011, but it's a very difficult shot.
Even if their bigs make a high percentage of contested, long twos and one of their poor shooters gets hot from deep, how many points are we talking about against the Spurs' defense? 95? (Not to be confused with the Clippers or Thunders' defense. The Clippers were just terrible and then Blake got injured. The Thunder had Durant guarding Gasol for extended periods of time. Gasol isn't going to get those kinds of opportunities against the Spurs. )
The Spurs, playing mediocre offensive basketball by their standards, can absolutely score more than 95 points. In the playoffs, here are the Spurs 3-point shooting percentages by player: Bonner 60%, Leonard 43%, Green 43%, Diaw 40%, Parker 38%, Manu 33%, Neal 25% and Joseph 25%. The Spurs' propensity to hit 3-pointers gives them the ability to put up points in a hurry. The Grizzlies will struggle to keep up with any Spurs' run. They simply are not built to play that way.
So, how can the Grizzlies make Game 2 competitive? Defensively, they are going to have to foul and hope the officials don't blow their whistles. They have to slow the game down. Not only limit the Spurs' transition opportunities, but they'll need to disrupt the Spurs' half court offense and ball movement. Expect the Grizzlies to hand check, hold, bump, trip... anything that will make the Spurs' system less fluid. Expect the Grizzlies to get more deflections and steals in Game 2.
Offensively, they'll probably post Zach Randolph much further away from the basket than they did in Game 1. If he moves to 15 feet outside of the paint, instead of residing on the block, the Spurs' fronting defense will have to adjust. Fronting from that distance doesn't work well because it makes the seal, backdoor move a very easy play to make. The Spurs will have to go to a 3/4 defensive position and allow the entry pass. He'll get the ball from that distance and make one of his Z-Bo moves. He's going to create a lot of contact and draw fouls, which will slow the game down. He didn't shoot a single free-throw in Game 1. Tonight, expect that to definitely change.
Even if those two things happen, I think the score is close but I don't think the Grizzlies will be able to score enough points to win. They'll need several players to get hot from the outside, because the Spurs will again dare Memphis to shoot. Tony Allen is nuts and I don't think his funky shot has the potential to get hot. If it wasn't so ugly, he'd be one of the greatest irrational confidence guys ever. Lucky for us, it's not feasible with his slingshot-like shooting motion. I don't think, at this point in his career, Prince is capable of a scoring binge, either. His shot has an unfortunate wind-up to it; it's a Stephen Jackson-esque slow release. It's a difficult shot to streak with. Bayless is a threat to go off, but he's so inconsistent it's difficult to expect anything from him, especially against the Spurs' defense.
That really only leaves Mike Conley for a potential scoring barrage. In this postseason, he has a 28, 26 and 24 point game to his name. The Grizzlies will need one of those from him to have a chance tonight.
This is why I called a sweep. Look, I'm not insane and do realize that it's very unlikely that my prediction will come true. I did it because I think the Spurs are significantly better than the Grizzlies and all the national pundits seem to think this is an even series for the Spurs, at best. It's insulting. I called a sweep to differentiate and make a point.
I just think a lot has to go right for the Grizzlies to keep the score close. The game has to be slow, oh so very slow. The officials have to let them play extremely physical basketball. Their bigs have to hit contested long twos. They have to have one of their poor shooters get hot. And more than anything, they'll need the Spurs to either commit a ridiculous amount of turnovers or shoot very poorly.
They need the Spurs to score less than 95 points in regulation. Preferably, less than 90. In their 11 postseason games, the Spurs have scored less than 95 points just four times. Game 1 against the Lakers was a controlled low score, because the Spurs were up and managed their lead, rather than attacking through the fourth quarter. Had the game been closer, the Spurs would have scored more than 95.
Game 4 against the Warriors was the Spurs' worst shooting night since 1997. So one controlled fall and one poor shooting night that we can probably count on not happening again. That leaves two vulnerable games out of 11. And the Spurs have been getting healthier with each additional game. Tony is playing much better than he did earlier in this postseason. Diaw and Manu seem to be improving from their regular season injuries. Tiago is finally moving a little better.
This team is peaking because their health is finally getting right. This current Spurs squad is significantly better than the one that swept the Lakers in the first round. I'm telling you, the Grizzlies are in deep trouble.
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No, Lullaby, I suppose I don't have to put this tweet here. But I'm going to. Thanks for noticing.— Fred (@DartFred) May 21, 2013