San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
April 6, 2014, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
San Antonio's winning-streak ended at 19 games on Thursday when the Oklahoma City Thunder knocked off the Spurs, 106-94. Despite it being the second night of a back-to-back, Gregg Popovich decided to play most of his roster, just sitting out Manu Ginobili for rest. The fact that he didn't sit out the Big 3 doesn't mean that the Spurs showed their full arsenal, however. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter each played under 30 minutes with Splitter only racking up 19. Marco played a team-high 30 minutes in the loss.
OKC has to be considered the main threats to a repeat through the Western Conference. That was OKC's fourth win this season against San Antonio despite the Spurs holding Kevin Durant under his season averages for the third time in four tries. The Spurs spent most of the past month and a half moon-walking through their schedule, but the Spurs face some real challenges over the few weeks of the season. That starts with a game tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. If the playoffs started right now, Memphis would be San Antonio's first round opponent.
The Grizzlies sit in the eighth spot with a 45-31 record. That is tied for eighth with Phoenix, but Memphis holds the tie-breaker. Both teams are one game back of Dallas for the seventh spot. The Spurs have had a lot of success in recent memory against Memphis, but it is probably the last of those three teams that San Antonio will want to face in the first round. The Spurs own Dallas and the Suns are still a team that has lottery pick type talent. Splitter's presence has really slowed down Memphis' success against San Antonio, but the Grizzlies are a tough matchup for any team because of the low-post presences of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Memphis is 6-4 over its last 10 games, including a 100-92 victory over Denver at home on Friday. The Grizzlies are 26th in points per game, 21st in total rebounds and 15th in assists, but they are still one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Some of that is style and some of it is personnel, but Memphis ranks third in the league in points allowed. Randolph leads the team with 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He is averaging 34.2 minutes per game in 73 games started this season, but only has an 18.3 PER. Gasol has a 17.8 PER and leads the team in blocks. He adds 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Gasol is one of the better passing big men in the league, averaging nearly four assists a game.
Memphis struggles to get consistent offensive production from the wing. Point guard Mike Conley is second on the team with 17.2 points per game, but he is the only real scoring threat in the Grizzlies' backcourt. He leads the team with six assists a game and has a PER of 19.9. Courtney Lee averages double figures scoring each game, but he is not a guy that will burn a defense for 30 points on any given night. Tayshaun Prince has never been a real offensive threat and only Mike Miller can really provide perimeter scoring off of the bench.
That puts a lot of pressure, and minutes, on the backs of Randolph, Gasol and Conley. The Grizzlies are not a great shooting team, so Memphis relies on a slower pace and offensive sets to create points. Conley getting into the lane is probably Memphis' best offensive play if the ball isn't given to either Gasol or Randolph on the block.
Matchup to watch: The most intriguing battle whenever San Antonio takes on Memphis happens in the paint. There are not many teams in the NBA that boast better frontcourt tandems than Memphis or San Antonio. Splitter and Duncan versus Gasol and Randolph is old-school basketball. However, the main focus for San Antonio will be keeping Conley from creating for him or teammates. If San Antonio can keep the Memphis role players from scoring off penetration by Conley the Spurs should be able to outlast Memphis at home.
Grizzlies perspective available at Grizzly Bear Blues.
Game prediction: Spurs by 4.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 7.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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