What a series. The Spurs beat the Grizzlies in what has to be one of the lowest point differential sweeps in league history. It was just a battle with both teams displaying the type of physical play we were used to with the Spurs championship teams of yore.
The Spurs went for the kill early on. After a first couple of minutes of hesitation, they started attacking the paint relentlessly with Parker and Splitter doing most of the damage. Lionel Hollins tried to run the offense through Gasol but Splitter did a great job containing him and the defense in general was stellar, allowing the Grizzlies less than 30% shooting from the field and 14 total first quarter points.
The Spurs kept the paint closed and pounded the ball inside to start the second quarter and got a max lead of 12 points. They could have blown the game wide open had the open three pointers fallen but they didn't and the ball movement slowed down a bit after a great start to the game. The Grizzlies' offense struggled to convert from the field but benefited from a huge free throw advantage (ten FTs for the Grizzlies, zero for the Spurs in the second quarter) with the officials calling the game really tight.
The Spurs went into the break leading by only six points even after they outscored the Grizzlies 34-12 in the paint. While it seemed the game was under control, anyone that has been watching this series knew better than to expect an easy win.
Parker started the second half like he started the game: carrying the Spurs' offense. Tony scored as many third quarter points as the rest of the Spurs combined, but the Spurs' defense struggled to contain a red hot Quincy Pondexter. With the from outside lift from Q-Pon, the Grizzlies' offense managed to match the Spurs' 28 points and went into the final frame with a chance to extend the series.
But it was Parker yet again who reigned over the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies couldn't find an answer to the Wee Frenchman's dribble drives and it proved to be their undoing. Without any consistent offensive weapons to counter the offensive output from the Spurs' stars, the Grizzlies had to rely on second chance points to stay alive, but it just wasn't enough. Memphis fought bravely, but they simply didn't have the horses down the stretch.
- Tony Parker was just unstoppable tonight, going for 37 points on 21 shots. It didn't matter who tried to guard Parker, he just made them pay by taking what the defense gave him. If they overplayed him to deny the ball, he would cut. If his guy went under the screen, he would hit the mid-range jumper. And if they made the mistake of trailing him, he just got to the rim. It was a fantastic performance by Tony in the last game of the series. The Spurs will need more of it in the Finals
- Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter just make a great big man duo. Splitter is deceptively good at guarding away from the rim and contesting shots while Duncan's length and timing make him a great rim protector and rebounder. While Splitter's rebounding numbers haven't been stellar this season, he does a good job blocking out, and of course his defense on the pick and roll has been fantastic. He also matched Duncan's four blocks with four of his own this game. An effective Splitter would help the Spurs enormously in the Finals.
- Manu Ginobili had the weirdest game. Six turnovers and 1-6 from the field looks terrible. But the six assists and six contested boards he pulled down help make up for it in a way. He made some amazing passes that required almost supernatural court vision and then turned it over by passing to where he thought his teammate would be. Ginobili's strange season continues, but he has showed signs of improvement. Let's hope he's saved the best for last.
- Danny Green contributed some solid defense and a decent three boards, three assists and two steals. The only shaky area was his shooting, where he went 2-6 and didn't get to the line. Kawhi Leonard meanwhile had another great game, finishing with 11 points, six boards and five steals. Even more impressively, The Big Island keeps shining when the Spurs need him the most, getting a couple valuable steals and hitting a three pointer just when the Grindhouse was starting to get rowdy.
- Boris Diaw was surprisingly aggressive in his limutes, taking five shots and connecting on two. He passed on an open three but overall did a good job on both sides of the ball. Matt Bonner had a rough game, missing all three of his three pointers and logging five fouls in a little over ten minutes. Both guys did a good job battling the bigger Memphis bigs this series so I have no complaints.
- Cory Joseph played more than Gary Neal and seems to have solidified his position as the second guard off the bench behind Manu and...that's a good thing? I'm ambivalent about this. Neal can change the momentum of the game with his shooting, but his defense is lacking and his shot selection is questionable. Joseph's biggest asset at this point is his discipline on both ends, rarely making a mistake and going all out every possession. In a defensive battle like this one, Joseph was the right choice but if the Heat advance, I think Neal will see his minutes increase. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's enjoy being in the Finals for now. There will be plenty of time for analysis.
- The Grizzlies had a great season and will face some tough decisions going forward. Do they keep Tony Allen despite his obvious flaws on offense? I'd think so but they will at the very least look to add a shooter or two since Tayshaun Prince and Jerryd Bayless are too inconsistent and Pondexter alone can't keep a defense honest. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. And I'm terrified of how they could be next season if they add, say, Kyle Korver and start giving Ed Davis some minutes.
Rejoice, Spurs fans! We are in the Finals! Now let's watch the Heat and Pacers battle it out for the privilege of facing our Spurs.
Stats via NBA.com/Stats
For the opponent's perspective, visit our friends over at Grizzly Bear Blues but remember to be nice.