The Spurs kick off the Race for Seis against a familiar foe, the resilient but short-handed Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies’ ‘Grit and Grind’ identity is in itself a tale of adversity. Without struggle, there is nothing to grind against. Without grief and woe and Chandler Parsons’ knees, what good is grit?
Even after moving on from former coach Dave Joerger and their more physical, inside-out style, pluck remains a big part of the Memphis DNA. It hangs somewhere in the ether, allowing the Grizz to be postseason mainstays regardless of whether injuries completely ravage their roster (like in 2016) or merely cripple it (like this year).
This time around, it’s the losses of Parsons and Tony Allen that temper Memphis’ postseason outlook. The former went down in March, succumbing to his third knee injury in as many seasons after signing a four-year, $95 million contract last summer. Allen’s is also devastating, not only for what he represents as the team’s Grindfather but for how important he would be in containing Kawhi Leonard.
With the Grizzlies’ best wing scorer and strongest wing defender out, this series is seemingly San Antonio’s to lose. The Spurs’ depth was already a strength before Allen got hurt, and Leonard’s brilliance should be on full display without Allen checking him. After losing three straight to close the regular season, a weakened foe will give the Silver and Black all the opportunities they need to regain their rhythm.
Last year’s series between these two resulted in a Spurs sweep, with an average margin of 22 points. We can expect a harder-fought battle this time, with both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol healthy. Their talent, combined with a frontcourt that still has Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green and James Ennis, is enough to make any game a close one.
This is a series I’ll watch with equal parts confidence and discomfort. The Grizzlies are overmatched in the talent department, but they’ll fight down low, throw different defensive looks at Kawhi Leonard, and chance it from deep whenever they can. The Spurs may even need to show a bit of their own grit by the end.
April 15, 2017 | 7:00 pm CDT
Series tied at 0-0
Watch: ESPN; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs injuries: None
Not the same old Grizzlies
As noted in my chat with Brandon from Grizzly Bear Blues, there are some stark differences between these Grizzlies and the ones from years past. For one, they’ve set a franchise record for the number of threes taken in a season. Marc Gasol has been a big reason for that, taking his game out behind the arc, but it’s also guys like Troy Daniels, Mike Conley and Vince Carter bombing away at will. The Spurs’ three-point defense will be tested.
Take the under
In the four regular-season meetings between these teams, only once did either side break 100, and that includes one that went to OT. The Spurs and Grizzlies ranked 27th and 28th in pace, respectively, this season, which means points should be hard to come by throughout this series.
Manu and Vince
This series features the two NBA’s oldest players in Manu Ginobili (39) and Vince Carter (40). Both have used the long ball to remain effective in their twilight years and both figure to have their moments in this series. Lest we forget what Carter did against San Antonio a few years back:
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Vegas line: Spurs by 8.5.
Game prediction: Spurs by 7.
For the Grizzlies fan’s perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.
Source: Pounding The Rock