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.
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Since the conclusion of the Boston Celtics’ season the hype from veteran reporters and bloggers alike has been to blow up the Celtics by trading Kevin Garnett and either waiving, trading or using the amnesty clause to remove Paul Pierce from the team. The thought process being that by trading Garnett and Pierce the Celtics would receive younger players who in return would fill the rebounding and scoring void needed to pave the way to the Celtics 18th NBA title.
There has been speculation, none of which has been corroborated by the Celtics organization, that in February the Celtics rejected offers for both players. The Los Angeles Clippers supposedly offered center DeAndre Jordan and point guard Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets presented the Celtics with an offer of forward Kris Humphries, guard MarShon Brooks and a first round pick for Pierce. More recently, it was reported that the Clippers would like to give the Celtics Matt Barnes and Carron Butler for Pierce.
The Golden State Warriors 2013 first round playoff victory against the Denver Nuggets will in all likelihood be remembered as the series that Stephan Curry took over and won for the Warriors. While it is true that Curry’s play was the catalyst to the Warriors victory, they could not have done it without center Andrew Bogut.
Bogut, who was an impact player in the paint for years with the Milwaukee Bucks, earned All-NBA third team honors in 2010. However, because of injuries to his elbow and ankle he has missed 120 games over the past two years, which has made him a forgotten man.
This was noted by Nuggets coach George Karl in his press conference after Game six, where he stated “He had forgotten how good Bogut is.” For Warriors fans, what Karl had forgotten is something they may have never known or even cared about because of All-Star forward David Lee’s play in the paint and the Warriors’ 47 wins this season. All of that was done mostly without Bogut, who appeared in only 30 games.
Injuries have often adversely affected teams with a realistic chance of winning an NBA championship. Most notably in recent history, between 2009 and 2012 the Boston Celtics suffered injuries to key players that greatly decreased their probability of winning championships. Likewise the Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose to injury in Game one of their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter-final series against the Philadelphia 76ers which essentially killed any chance they had of winning a title last season.
This trend has continued in the 2013 postseason, with the Golden State Warriors losing All-Star forward David Lee and the Oklahoma City Thunder losing All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook for the duration of the year. Granted, even with Lee the Warriors were not considered a serious contender to win this year’s championship. But, should they be able to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the first round, losing Lee will make it extremely difficult for them to defeat the Spurs in the second round or any opponent in the Conference or NBA Finals.
David Lee’s season is over. An MRI has shown the All-Star forward suffered a tear to his right hip flexor in Saturday’s Game one loss to the Denver Nuggets. Lee has been a pillar of strength for the Warriors all season long. He led the NBA in the regular season with 56 double-doubles and averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
It will be difficult for the team to defeat the Nuggets in the Western Conference Quarter-finals without him, but it is too early to conclude their season is over just yet. They have two players on their roster in Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut who have the potential to fill the void.
Landry is a proven NBA power forward who has played big minutes of the bench this season and has career averages of 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while playing close to 25 minutes per contest. Bogut, a former third team All-NBA center who has been injured for most of the season appears to be somewhat healthy. If this is the case the Warriors will be in good shape, because when healthy he is among the best rebounders and shot blockers in the league.