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- Defend the interior. Memphis’ Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are averaging 38 points between them in the postseason. They are the top interior tandem remaining. Tim Duncan remains an outstanding interior defender, but he is going to need help. That is why Tiago Splitter will be a vital presence in this series. He must stay out of foul trouble.
- Perimeter play. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are explosive scorers who can open defenses with their outside shooting but can also take it to the basket. They must be consistent scorers in this series. What is amazing is that they were a combined 4 for 22 from the field in the closing 92-84 Game 6 win at Golden State. The Spurs won’t be as fortunate against the Grizzlies if these two aren’t at the top of their game.
- Feed Duncan. Even at 37, Duncan has continued to prove that he is a force. These playoffs he is averaging 18.7 points in under 35 minutes per game. Duncan remains the key in the entire series. The two teams split in the regular season, but Duncan didn’t play in the final game, a 92-90 Memphis home win on April 1. In the other three regular season games against the Grizzlies, he has averaged 19.7 points and 12.7 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent. In this year’s 10 playoff games Duncan is shooting just 45.7 percent, the third lowest in his postseason career. He will need to be around his regular season average for the Spurs to advance.
- Get Leonard in the open court. Teams understand they can’t fall asleep on Kawhi Leonard. He is emerging as one of the more dangerous open court players in the NBA, and his all-around game keeps expanding. In the closing win over Golden State, he had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Here is where his importance is shown the most – in the 10 postseason games Leonard leads the Spurs in minutes played, averaging 37.7 per game.
- Ball movement. In the closing win over Golden State, the Spurs had 27 assists on 33 baskets, an incredible ratio. In the playoffs, where the games tend to be more half-court affairs, ball movement is even more critical and the Spurs are as good as any team in this department.
- Hold their own in the point guard battle. Mike Conley continues to be among the most improved point guards in the NBA, and he had to deal with Chris Paul in the first round. Now Conley has a major challenge in Parker. One thing he has to do better is improve his shooting. In the postseason he is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. That is compared to 44.0 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three-point range in the regular season. Conley will have to approach those numbers.
- Unleashing Allen. As Tony Allen showed in the series win over Oklahoma City, he can defend a number of positions. Allen is among the top defensive players in the league and coach Lionel Hollins will have the flexibility of putting him on the hot hand for San Antonio. Allen has averaged 3.3 personal fouls per game and he must be able to stay on the court, especially late in games. He also should be advised not to throw any towels at the Spurs as well.
- Keep receiving long-range production from Pondexter. While he received little pre-playoff fanfare, Quincy Pondexter has been a vital part of Memphis' success. The Grizzlies are not shooting well from three-point range in the playoffs (31.4 percent), but Pondexter is shooting a team best .429 (12 for 28). In the final four wins by Memphis, he was a plus-22 when on the court. During the five-games against Oklahoma City, he shot 7 for 13 from beyond the arc.
- Feed the inside. Not only are Gasol and Randolph strong inside players but they can also pull defenders out and hit jumpers. Either way, the offense has to go inside and they must make Duncan work on defense. Duncan’s ability to stay out of foul trouble is one of the keys and Memphis will kick it in and make sure he has to keep working on defense.