West Quarterfinals Vs. Memphis Game 1: Spurs 106, Grizzlies 74 Series: 1-0 SA
A common refrain we hear from the Spurs and, heck, most teams in most pro sports, whenever they're asked about a team that they haven't just played or aren't about to play, is that they don't care about them and are just focusing on themselves. It may come off, depending on the tone of the message and the reputation of the messenger as arrogant or even narcissistic, but really it's more practical than anything else. It's a credo coaches try to drill into players' heads from the first day of training camp on: Only focus on what you can control, don't spend any time or energy on things you can't. It's pretty much been a stock answer whenever any Spur was asked about the Warriors all season long.
We don't care.
Well, the playoffs are supposed to be different. What's unique about a postseason tournament is not just the win-or-go-home stakes but the circumstance of having to play the same team over and over again in a truncated two week stretch. All of a sudden the routine the players and coaches have grown accustomed to for the past seven months, traveling from port to port and not even knowing what city they're in sometimes; the endless road trips with back-to-backs and three-games-in-four-nights and the like, all that is over. In the playoffs, everything gets specific, with an opponents' strengths and weaknesses scrutinized to the tiniest detail and game plans far more thorough and comprehensive than the bare bones crib notes of the regular season.
The regular season may be about "us", but the playoffs are supposed to be about "them."
Unless, of course, the "them" in question are all sitting on the bench in street clothes, unable to play due to a sprained this, a ruptured that and a broken everything else. Then you find yourself in a spot where you're facing a club who's starting Jordan Farmar at point guard and backing him up with Xavier Munford, a team whose most dangerous scorer Vince Carter is eight months younger than Tim Duncan and six months older than Manu Ginobili, and a squad whose coach Dave Joerger begrudgingly admitted having to count on Lance Stephenson because he can create his own shot.
With all due respect, there can't be more than a half-dozen teams in the league, counting the ones who missed the playoffs, who wouldn't give the Spurs a more competitive playoff series. The Memphis Grizzlies haven't been very successful the past five years against San Antonio with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Without them 106-74 seems about right.
Not that it started out all that pretty, mind you. The best thing you could say about the home side's offense in the first half was "boy, that Kawhi Leonard sure has long arms, huh?"
The half-court offense still looked mostly broken --"We didn't move the ball. It was a lot of one-on-one. I think it was seven assists at the half," Gregg Popovich would lament afterward-- and the team hit all of three shots outside of the paint before intermission, including 2-of-11 from three. The first quarter score was 13-11 with 2:26 to go in the first before the Spurs ended with a 10-2 flourish and the story was much the same in the second quarter, a 9-0 finish to the half including five from Tony Parker.
The only thing that saved their numbers from looking abysmal was their effort in their own end, Leonard in particular with three steals and two blocks, but Duncan, Ginobili, Danny Green and LaMarcus Aldridge as well. Their arms and bodies were all over the place, getting deflections, making life hell in the paint for Zach Randolph and others, and getting run-outs in transition. The Spurs had 11 fast break points and 11 more on second-chance opportunities, with Aldridge cashing in on a couple of tip-ins to get himself going after a slow start and Leonard hustling to get an easy one for himself too.
With the talent disparity being what it is the last thing the Grizzlies could afford was to be careless with the ball and out-hustled, and they seemed to lose heart with the way the Spurs finished the half. There were a couple more turnovers from Randolph, with Duncan just straight snatching the ball from him once, and the resulting layup for Parker got the margin to 16 and ended any shred of doubt about Game 1's outcome. Soon after the dam burst with the Spurs' offense, they had their usual 33-14 third quarter at the AT&T Center, and the fourth quarter belonged to Boban Marjanovic and Kevin Martin, who'd both probably start for the Grizzlies.
This play summarizes every third quarter at home for the Spurs during the 2015-16 season.
So, no, this isn't the time to worry about "them." If the Spurs were to give much thought about the Grizzlies' situation, it would just lead to feelings of sympathy, pity and over-confidence, and that is exactly the opposite of what you want if you're Pop. So you continue to treat it like the regular season, to keep plugging away on the "we" and the "us," and strive for improvement. You keep calling those time outs up a million points to yell at Leonard for not riding Carter off the three-point line. It's the only way to get any use out of this series.
I'm guessing that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant carry enough gravitas that people won't be asking the Spurs about the Warriors when those guys come to town.
Zach Randolph did not have a very good Game 1, shooting 3-of-13, mostly against Duncan, and finishing with six points and a game-worst minus-28. The Spurs had the chance to converge on him inside since he didn't have much perimeter help, but he's never had much perimeter help, so let's talk a bit about Randolph's bad night with a chart I've titled "Zach Randolph stinks against the Spurs."
As you're well aware, Z-Bo had the playoff series of his life in 2011 against San Antonio, averaging 21.5 points on 50 percent shooting. The Grizzlies pulled the upset, winning in six games. How's he done versus the Spurs since then?
Zach Randolph Stinks Against the Spurs
Record FG-FGA Percent Average
2012 2 Games (0-2) 7-18 38.9% 10.0 points
2013 8 Games (2-6) 37-111 33.3% 12.6 points
2014 4 Games (0-4) 16-48 33.3% 10.8 points
2015 3 Games (1-2) 22-46 47.8% 17.0 points
2016 2 Games (0-2) 7-23 30.4% 7.5 points
19 Games (3-16) 89-246 36.2% 12.1 points
Not great, Bob.
My controversial position on this matter is that I would like Randolph to keep struggling against the Spurs.
The Spurs ended the half with their "5 HOF Lineup" and used it a bit early on in the third quarter too. Duncan-Aldridge-Leonard-Ginobili-Parker played 7:57 together and were a plus-9. That works out to a 57.3 net rating, according to NBA.com, which is Warriors "Death-Ball Lineup" territory. The quintet was just slightly less successful in the regular season, with a 15.3 net rating in 121 minutes, but I still like it and would like to see more of it. Playing your five best players at the same time, what a novel idea.
Ginobili didn't have a very impressive stat line, but it's not a coincidence he finished a game-high plus-24. Everything came much easier on both ends with him on the floor.
It was an overall positive showing for "The Big Three." Duncan was their best player, all things considered, in the first half, and Parker had plenty of zip out there, able to penetrate for several layups.
As one would expect, the playoffs have them perked up a bit.
Green is leading the league in three-point percentage during the playoffs you know.
Pop wasn't messing around, going to a short nine-man rotation until garbage time. That meant only three wings and Kyle Anderson (and Martin and Jonathon Simmons) watching from the bench. We'll see if the rotation loosens up as the series goes on. I'm still hopeful Boban Marjanovic will play meaningful minutes against Enes Kanter in round two.
I WILL CASUALLY DESTROY YOU AND EVERYONE YOU LOVE.
Your Three Stars
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Tim Duncan
3. Tony Parker