2013 NBA Playoffs
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs will meet in the playoffs for the second time in three years, this time in the Western Conference Finals. The No.5 seed Grizzlies will have three days in between games, while the No.2 seed Spurs will get two days of rest.
Since losing their first two games to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Grizzlies have been close to unbeatable. They have won eight of their last nine, including three victories on the road.
After making quick work of the L.A. Lakers, San Antonio struggled to beat Golden State in six games. They needed to mount a late comeback in Game One and avoided an elimination game when Stephen Curry finally had a poor shooting night.
These two teams are very familiar with each other. As the eighth seed, the Grizzlies upset the Spurs in the first round of the 2011 playoffs in six games. In the regular season, both clubs played each other evenly, splitting their four head-to-head matchups. Memphis and San Antonio won their home games and the first two contests went into overtime.
Grizzlies Key Players
Mike Conley: The improved play of the point guard in the 2013 playoffs has made the team into a legitimate title contender. Giving the Grizzlies an offensive threat in the backcourt has forced defenses to worry about more than just Memphis’s two big men.
Marc Gasol: Winning the Defensive Player of the Year award may have solidified his spot as the top center in basketball. He should make it difficult for Tony Parker to get easy looks in the paint and his ability to hit jump shots makes up for the team’s lack of good perimeter scorers.
Spurs Key Players
Tony Parker: The Spurs may have eliminated the Warriors with a bad game from Parker, but that won’t be the case in this series. In the team’s two second-round losses, Parker’s shooting percentage was more than 14 percentage points lower than it was in the regular season. With Memphis having such a big advantage down low, the Spurs need him to outplay Conley.
Tim Duncan: With the San Antonio big men having to deal with Gasol and Zach Randolph, Duncan will have to hold his own. He seemed to have a resurgence in the regular season and will need to be one of the best players in this series for the Spurs to have a chance. When the Spurs take out Tiago Splitter and play small, the veteran will have to do his best to control the paint.
Memphis may be the best defensive team in the NBA. They allowed a league-best 89.3 points per game in the regular season and have been able to pull out victories when they struggle to score. In addition to Gasol, Tony Allen is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league. His defense against Manu Ginobili will be a key to the series.
No team moves the ball like the Spurs. They led the NBA in the regular season with 25.1 assists per game and were better than any team at finding the open man. Supporting players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will have to hit open shots for San Antonio to advance to the NBA Finals. It might be hard to find a better head coach than Gregg Popovich, and he should make the proper adjustments if the Spurs are struggling.
Game 1: at San Antonio, Sunday, May 19, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Game 2: at San Antonio, Tuesday, May 21, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN Game 3: at Memphis, Saturday, May 25, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN Game 4: at Memphis, Monday, May 27, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN Game 5: at San Antonio, Wednesday, May 29, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN* Game 6: at Memphis, Friday, May 31, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN* Game 7: at San Antonio, Sunday, June 2, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN*
San Antonio -130, Memphis +110
Memphis in six