I got the sneaky suspicion that Memphis decided they wanted to play the top-seeded Spurs and got their wish. Why? Well, although the Spurs won 15 more games, these two teams have very similar statistics.
The Grizzlies beat the Spurs two straight times to even the season series. Memphis has had success with Zach Randolph dominating San Antonio's frontline to the tune of 23 points and 14 rebounds per game. They feel they can win on the road in good teams’ buildings. They did it in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Dallas and Boston, after all. They are also 30-11 at home and feel like one win on the road can win get them the series.
They have done it with good, hard-nosed defense lately and if Manu Ginobli is not healthy in time the Spurs are in serious trouble.
San Antonio's bench has been dominant in the season series, averaging 43.7 per game and seems to be the main advantage they carry into the playoffs. Look for Tony Allen to guard Tony Parker if he starts to dominate Mike Conley because he will be the key for the Spurs.
Marc Gasol is a big body and Tim Duncan, with his athletic ability dwindling by the game, will really have to come up with a big to offset Randolph.
Gasol on the other end has been anemic in the series shooting 11 for 33 in four games. This is no doubt a bench series and the Spurs are a deeper team, so Gregg Popovich will use them early and often.
The Spurs will win if...
- Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess can offset Zach Randolph’s production.
- The Spurs' bench continues its dominance.
- Tony Parker creates and dominates in the paint.
The Grizzlies will win if...
- Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol control the paint.
- Mike Conley and Tony Allen negate Tony Parker's ability to break down defense.
- They get great production off the bench.
- Tough first round matchup for Spurs. San Antonio 4, Memphis 2.
SCHEDULE: April 17, April 20, April 23, April 25, April 27, April 29 and May 1 / Regular season series tied 2-2.