Memphis Grizzlies 56 – 26 vs. San Antonio Spurs 58-24
Regular Season Series: Series tied with two wins apiece.
The Memphis Grizzlies will square off against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 Western Conference Finals that begins Sunday in San Antonio. Both teams have been impressive in the post season, with the Spurs sweeping an ailing Los Angeles Lakers squad in the first round and then fending off a tough up and coming Golden State Warrior team in their second round series. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies post season run began with them soundly beating a strong Los Angeles Clippers team in the first round and then followed that up by defeating the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.
This will be a competitive series and there is not an obvious favorite, as both teams match up well against each other. Each team possess’ quality big men, athletic perimeter players and point guards that can create opportunities for themselves and their teammates. While neither team has an obvious advantage, here are five observations that could decide who wins the Western Conference Championship.
Control the post
The Grizzlies Big man tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol has dominated the post play in the teams’ two series victories this post season. They will be facing their toughest challenge yet against the Spurs, whose front court is led by future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and veterans Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter. Each team has become accustomed to their big men dominating the boards, protecting the paint on defense and scoring on offense in the low and high post to win games. The front court that is able to win this battle, gives their team a great chance at winning the series
Ability to score from the perimeter
Both teams have excellent perimeter players that can score. Much like the play in the post this is going to be another battle ground. Perhaps the Spurs have a bit of an advantage, because they have more quality perimeter players on their roster in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Danny Green and Gary Neal. While personnel depth can be an advantage, the Grizzlies have players that can light up the score board in Michael Conley, Jarryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter and Tayshaun Prince. Bayless especially has the ability to get hot and Conley has proven in the playoffs that he can carry a team for stretches of a game.
Injuries to key Spurs personnel
The Spurs throughout the playoffs have been dealing with minor injuries to guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and center Tiago Splitter. Thus far they have been able to survive, but in this series they will be facing their toughest opponent to date and will need these players to be healthy and effective to win. Should one or all three struggle due to their lingering injuries, the Spurs will have a difficult time winning the Western Conference Championship.
Tony Allen’s Defense
Allen creates mayhem on defense. He jumps into passing lanes and pressures the ball as well as any player in the NBA. His Ability to do this creates hesitation in the opposition. It causes opponents to get into their offensive sets later in the shot clock and use caution when making passes on the perimeter, or into the post. This puts extra pressure on the offense to execute in less time and often leads to errant passes and rushed shots.
The result of Allen’s defense is that it translates into turnovers and rebounds for the Grizzlies, which gives them more opportunities to score on the fast break, in offensive sets and the foul line. Since the team that takes more shots, often wins the game, Allen’s influence on the court, can frequently turn the outcome in the Grizzlies favor.
A Seventh Game
If the series gets to a seventh game the Spurs who hold home court based on their better regular season record have an advantage, because home teams have won 112 of the 135 game sevens in NBA history.
There is not a clear favorite in this year’s Western Conference Finals. The outcome could be dictated by the Spurs health and intangibles like Tony Allen’s defense, but ultimately it will come down to who can control the post and score on the perimeter that will decide who is this year’s Western Conference Champion.
All games on ESPN except game one, which will be aired on ABC. Games can also be streamed live atWatchESPN.com
Game 1 in San Antonio: Sunday May 19, 2:30pm. EST
Game 2 in San Antonio: Tuesday May 21, 9:00pm. EST
Game 3 in Memphis: Saturday May 25, 9:00pm. EST
Game 4 in Memphis: Monday May 27, 9:00pm. EST
Game 5 in San Antonio: Wednesday May 29, 9:00pm. EST
Game 6 in Memphis: Friday May 31, 9:00pm. EST
Game 7 in San Antonio: Sunday June 2, 9:00pm. EST