Monday morning, my wife had a blowout on her way to work. I was on the phone with her as she pulled semi-calmly onto the side of the highway, but I couldn't go help her. If you're a husband or boyfriend, this situation is right up there with being by her side in the birthing room saying "push, hon!" #uselessman. I had a good reason for not rushing to her side, I swear. You see, we were getting new carpet. As my wife waited for a tow truck while hoping her boss wouldn't make a big deal of the misfortune on her first non-probationary day of work, I was in our living room watching the installer pull up the old carpet. "No Bueno," he said. Below the padding was a swarm of fire ants, driven inside by the recent rains here in North Texas.
I really can't complain about such a crappy morning in the Jones household, because the Memphis Grizzlies have had about six weeks of blowouts and bug bites. They entered the playoffs relying on 30-somethings like Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Jordan Farmar, who they've "complimented" with 20-somethings like Xavier Munford...
and The One and Only...
LANCE A MAKE EM DANCE https://t.co/3EoVLOKr28— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) April 20, 2016
Their first-round opponent, the Spurs, are ruthless. But they are not cruel, and as a team they have approached the series with Memphis in the most merciful way possible. After a few shaky moments in the first half of game 1, San Antonio has let no false hope shine down on the faces of the Grizzlies. There is no allowance of momentum, no run of Memphis baskets that could possibly inspire confidence or any inkling that they could truly be competitive in this series. After eight increasingly dark quarters for the Grizz - in which they've been outscored 200-142 and shot 35% from the field - they are finally going toward the light.
They are halfway home.
For the Spurs, these are mixed blessings. They are a little banged up, sure, but outside of LaMarcus Aldridge's pinky finger they are as close to the pink of health as anyone else in this playoffs. Despite what some at PtR have advocated, Pop is obviously loathe to treat the playoffs like the preseason or a SEGABABA in Salt Lake City, strategically resting players and planning for the future. The playoffs are supposed to be about the here and now, do or die, win or go home. But the Spurs have now won two games in which they were favored by some of the highest margins in NBA history, and the real Grizzlies never showed up. What can you do? "Don't look ahead" rings pretty hollow when there's nothing in the short term to work on.
So all the Spurs can do now is continue to push down on the corners of the defensive pillow they're using to smother Memphis until the Grizz finally move on to their off-season Elysium. (For the sake of the great fans and organization in Memphis, I hope Mike Conley sticks around. But if he doesn't, he's pretty far up on my personal list of "guys who would make great Spurs.") Could the Grizzlies put up a fight once the series crosses the Mississippi? Sure, if Pop takes Erler's advice and Kawhi shoots like Kevin Durant did Monday night and Zach Randolph turns it up to 2011 and Marc Gasol ambles out of the tunnel like Willis Reed. But the sweep approach works better for everybody, if we're honest. The NBA started the best of 7 first round back in 2003, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a playoff team who secretly wished for the old best of 5 more than this Grizzlies team (though this year's Houston Rockets team might be a close second.)
If you're Pop and the Spurs, you've been gifted a second preseason to tune up, tweak some things, experiment with lineups that substitute Kevin Martin for Danny Green (ahem!) Don't lose your focus against what is still a team of mostly NBA players, but take advantage of a first-round series that's become more like an R&D center. And get some rest, because you're going to need it. Some bad days undoubtedly lie ahead.
Quote of the Night
"It means a lot."
- Kawhi Leonard, on receiving his second consecutive Defensive Play of the Year Award
Most threes by DPOY in NBA history:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) April 20, 2016
1. KAWHI LEONARD - 129 (2015-16)
2. Gary Payton - 98 (1995-96)
3. Michael Cooper - 89 (1986-87)
Memphis scored 13 points in the first quarter of Game 1. Went back to the drawing board and managed 11 in the first quarter tonight.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 20, 2016
Dear Memphis: Manu goes left. This isn't a secret— Stephen Bagwell (@SpursfanSteve) April 20, 2016
You get back on defense. You match-up with the offensive players in transition. You stop Boris Diaw from a layup. He finds Patty Mills. Bang— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 20, 2016
That ball movement tho... pic.twitter.com/MV3iLY8wNC— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 20, 2016
What makes Boris Diaw so awesome is he has the grace of a ballet dancer while having the verticality of a beached whale flopping on the sand— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) April 20, 2016
Pop on if Diaw deserved more votes for 6th Man Award: "Probably not. I don't think we really care where he placed." #Spurs— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) April 20, 2016
Everything about that half was painful for the Grizzlies— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 20, 2016
They trail the Spurs, 49-35, through two quartershttps://t.co/OP6kDhGJXN
David West with the fast break SLAM!! pic.twitter.com/T2jil6ns5d— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 20, 2016
Stat o' the night: Memphis attempted 20 more field goals than the Spurs (86 to 66). And nearly lost by 30.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 20, 2016
Matt Barnes: "We're coming to a gunfight with spoons."— Geoff Calkins (@geoff_calkins) April 20, 2016
David Robinson and Kawhi Leonard also excited about the close game… pic.twitter.com/QWDfumiFuG— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) April 20, 2016