2010 was a rough year as a Spurs fan. Well, it was the most painful regular season I have had to endure in my 14 years as a Spurs lover. Keith Bogans was a Spur (what?), Tony was unhealthy when Manu happened to be healthy, Blair/Bonner were our centers and Richard Jefferson happened. I hated it.
I remember seriously wanting to tank that season and get a lottery pick. I wanted death for the Spurs. I was so miserable with our borderline flirtation with mediocrity. All season I was disgusted, and when San Antonio got the 7th seed I felt like I was a bankrupt millionaire who had stayed in the Waldorf and was now being forced into a Motel 6. The Seventh Seed? Plus, we were going to get beat by the Mavs AGAIN...I was disgusted. I wanted the team to be blown up. I was a fan headcase. I wanted a final death for the Spurs, not another first round loss and another season with no title. Finality, closure, death...lottery picks, Duncan retires, seeya, sayanora.
But death, the lottery, trading Tony, sacrificing Richard Jefferson on the altar as atonement (still not a bad option) would have led to one option...the end of this era we love so much. It would have meant that we missed out on the Spurs getting revenge on the Mavericks that year. I was always the fan who would have preferred my teams, mainly the Spurs, lose early than lose in the finals (which is stupid). Mainly because I fear failure, I fear the possibility of it. I would rather slink away quietly than go down with my guns blazing. (Yes I know, I do not play for the Spurs).
However, going down quietly leads to no possibilities, no adventure, no risk...just closure. And I hate that. I want the possibilities. I want the risk now; who cares if the Spurs fail? I just want to see what happens. Imagine all the emotion and enjoyment we'd have missed out on had the Spurs tanked it in 2010 or 2011. A dwarf named Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones taught me a lot..."Death is so Final, whereas Life is full of possibilities."
So I commend the Spurs. I commend them for fighting, for Grinding (Sorry Grizzlies), for enduring through injuries, and for getting up after failures to the Suns, Grizzlies and Thunder. Because of the Spurs' heart and continual desire for one more ring, we fans are looking down a basketball road that's full of possibilities. Not one that ended early and quietly.
I remember Mike Breen saying on Sunday during game one that Pop's competitiveness has actually increased over the past few years. They want it, even if they fail. They are fighting so hard and up 2-0 on the Grizzlies, a team that had their way with the Spurs two years ago. This fire is so clearly evident in that ridiculous sequence of missed shots by the Grizzlies last night, where the Spurs would not let them have anything.
Why did this sequence remind me of a Tables, Ladders, Chairs match in WWE? The Spurs just wouldn't let the Grizzlies have that basket and they haven't let them have much this series. In Game 1, the Spurs denied the Grizzlies all game long and carved them to pieces. In Game 2, when the Grizzlies got close like they did in that sequence above, the Spurs continued to deny them. This series has been either a seventh grade 100 meter dash (where the most athletic kid has annihilated the rest of the pack) or it's been a street fight.
The Spurs seem to have control, but up 2-0 against a team who has recently come back from that deficit, brings us to a road of many possibilities. 96.5 percent of teams win the series when up 2-0, and Pop is 19-2 when his teams have had that series lead.
Here's how this series could play out (from most likely to least likely) on the Road of Possibilities.
The Spurs Continue to Run Away with it and win this series in 4 or 5 games:
-The Grizzlies' second half surge might actually be their worst nightmare, because now the Spurs have three days to scheme against what Memphis did that was worked. After two straight blowouts, would there have been for PATFO to do? What adjustments could they have made without a blueprint of Grizzlies success to break down. But now that San Antonio has nearly dropped a game they lead by 18 points, there is no sense of accomplishment in the Spurs locker room.
The scheduling finally works in the Spurs favor and the three days off allow a gassed Parker, Duncan and Manu to rest. The Grizzlies have led for such a tiny portion of this series, it's unreal. I think the Spurs have clearly controlled the tempo and the pace of the series when they are on offense. And with the way the Spurs offense has been playing (besides the first and fourth quarters of last night), I see no way Memphis keeps up. Reason being; the Spurs live and die by Tony Parker's offense. In game 1 the Grizzlies tried to keep him out of the paint, and they couldn't. In game two they tried to double down on him, always spying him with an extra defender (like a football defense does a mobile QB) and he had 18 assists.
Seems like the Grizzlies are at a loss, because if you try to keep Tony out of the paint it either leaves the corners wide open for Green and Leonard to destroy you, or it gives Timmy freedom down low. And if you try and double Parker out on the perimeter, you leave room for slashers (Splitter/Diaw) who can cut to the basket. Parker really does seem to have become such a more intelligent player.
Great players, (Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, LeBron James) find different ways to win if their shots aren't falling...and Tony Parker is doing that, as evident in game 6 against the Warriors and Game two against the Grizz. If Tony continues to take over games in more ways than just his scoring, the Grizzlies won't have a chance.
The Grizzlies best defensive lineup (Randolph, Gasol, Conley, Prince, Allen) is so offensively inept in this series it can't hang with a Spurs team where Tony is clicking. Plus, Tayshaun Prince has proved to be worthless in this series, because he can't score and there is nobody for him to guard. Tony Allen is also more suited to guard longer threats like Durant, and he seems to not have a place in this series, other than the award for Best Actor in the film "My Head Just Cracked Open."
Having two defenders without a role will force the Grizzlies into a the lineup of Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless along with Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Those two are not even close to the defenders that Prince and Allen are, but they can clearly provide the offensive spark necessary to provide room for the bigs to operate. However, at times they shoot the Grizzlies out of the game, evident in the fact that Bayless went 7-18 in game two. These two players help the scoring, but also take the Grizzlies out of their inside first/defense always mentality.
It's possible that the only reason the game two lapse even happened was because Timmy sat for 17 minutes which led to too much Bonner on Randolph. Danny Green sat too long, and the refs were not consistent in their calls on both ends.
If this series goes four or five games, it's because the offensive ineptitude of Allen and Prince causes them to lose minutes, and causing the defense to take a hit when Pondexter and Bayless are on the floor, which allows Parker, Green and Leonard (hopefully Manu Ginobili too) to go wild. They also (mainly Bayless) seem to have a major Jarrett Jack quality in that, they can help or hurt the Spurs with their constant shooting.
In this scenario, Game 3 will be a slugfest, much like Overtime last night, with games four or five being a blowout in the Spurs favor. But, I honestly think we sweep if we get game three. Then it's: NBA Finals, here we come.
The Spurs win in Six or Seven Games:
I only think this happens if the Spurs have two games in Memphis that resemble the fourth quarter of Game 2. I don't think that's possible because there are going to be wide open shooters since Memphis is having to pick their poison with their own lineups, but I also did not think the Spurs were going to miss shots like they did in the WCF last year against OKC. I think if the Spurs continue to play good defense, this scenario is unlikely. Mainly because Memphis does not look like they can take a lead on a Spurs team that keeps playing their offense.
The Grizzlies Win in Six Games
The Spurs would have to forget their improvements on defense and Memphis would have to get really hot, making it a four game scoring battle between Tim and Tony versus the world. I do not see Memphis being able to beat San Antonio, as long as three Spurs players score a decent amount. And I think we are due for a vintage Manu Game, at least once per series. And one of those would not bode well for Memphis. In this scenario, Z-Bo reverts to playing like his 2011 self. The only way I see the Spurs losing this series is in four straight losses, which will be hard to do against a team that does not feature Kobe, Shaq, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook or that POS Derek Fisher.
Life leads to so many possibilities...and because of the Spurs' rising competitiveness the past two years, re-commitment to stingy defense, and an absolute refusal to die; they're alive and well. Staring down a team they once succumbed to, and just two wins away from a finals match-up against Lebron James and Dwyane Wade or Lance Stephenson and Psycho T Hansbrough.