LOCATION:AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
MEDIA:TNT, Fox Sports Tennessee,Soul Classics 103.5 FM
Memphis(3-1)returns to the Forum Monday in an attempt to become only the 2nd eighth seed to go up 3-1 against a top seeded team since the league went to seven game playoffs in the first round. Memphis has continued their outstanding play in the paint in winning the first two games but has also surprised many fans and critics alie with their play outside of the arc. Not only are the Grizzlies making three point shots thanks to O J Mayo and Shane Battier (not to mention one particularly timely shot by Zach Randolph) but they are also making it difficult on San Antonio to make long shots.
San Antonio(1-3)took the Grizzlies best punch in the first half Saturday night but was still standing coming back from 15 points behind in the first half to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter. However the Grizzlies held on and eventually won the game in no small part to the Spurs losing Antonio McDyes and Manu Ginobili hobbling to the finish. San Antonio knows they are in a dogfight but have players experienced in dealing with such fights. San Antonio realizes better than most that they are one road win away from taking back home court advantage also. Of course the Spurs also know they are 1-12 in the playoffs when trailing 2-1 after three games.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsTony Parker
Tony Parker started off the first half like a man who single handedly wanted to beat the Grizzlies. Going 9-9 from the field and scoring 19 points in the first half. His 5 first half turnovers allowed the Grizzlies to stay close however. Parker was much quieter in the second half to finish with 23 points but only 1 assist and 7 turnovers. Conley wasn’t as impressive shooting the ball but his 14 pts, 7 assists and only one turnover effectively matched Parker’s performance. Conley doesn’t need to score as much as Parker to be effective but he does need to play defense.
Shooting Guards:Tony Allenvs Manu Ginobili
Tony Allen challenged Manu’s injury before the game. Apparently Manu wasn’t offended because the Spurs leader was very quiet in Game 4 scoring 4 points on 5-13 shooting (2-6 from beyond the arc) and was never a major factor in the game. Allen on the other hand was back to his swashbuckling self with 12 points, 3 steals, 3 rebounds and no trunovers. Manu seemed bothered more by his elbow than he has since missing the first game of the playoffs. With little rest between games Manu’s health could determine the Spurs’ fate. Manu will have the home crowd supporting him and a strong comeback game is likely.
Advantage: San Antonio
Small Forwards:Sam YoungvsRichard Jefferson
Richard Jefferson was shut out in Game 4. Sam Young, played only 21 minutes but finished with 8 points. It isn’t likely that Jefferson will be shut out again. Young has averaged 8 ppg in the playoffs but looked bad in game 1. This is Young’s first elimination playoff game so how he responds to the pressure could be a determining factor in the game. If Young can keep Jefferson from being effective it won’t matter how much he scores. Young scored 17 points in Game 2 at San Antonio but has scored only 15 points total in the other three games.
Advantage: San Antonio
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsAntonio McDyess
Antonio McDyess lost his temper in the first half of Game 4 and was replaced by Tiago Splitter in the 2nd as the Spurs moved Duncan onto Randolph in an attempt to slow down the Grizzlies team leader. McDyess’ lost of control was out of character for Antonio and the Spurs and reflected just how frustrated the Spurs have become in the series. Z-Bo didn’t score from the 5:00 minute mark of the 3rd quarter on but he wasn’t needed as the Grizzlies had run out to a huge lead by that time. With extended rest Randolph will likely be ready to bang all night in San Antonio and the Grizzlies need him to make a big impact.
Centers:Marc GasolvsTim Duncan
Tim Duncan has been one of the greatest PF’s in NBA history. Unfortunately time takes its toll on everyone including superstars and Duncan (35) is simply no longer fast enough or strong enough to match up with Marc Gasol (25) down low. Gasol, the 7-1 center from Spain, has been using his height advantage to force Duncan out of his comfort zone offensively while wearing the Spurs star down on the offensive end.
Benches:Memphisvs San Antonio
Memphis’ bench was blamed for the team’s failure to make the playoffs last season. This season they are being lauded as the main reason the Grizzlies are up 3-1 against the Spurs. Led by O J Mayo and Darrell Arthur, the Grizzlies bench was too fast and too defensive for the Spurs backups. San Antonio’s bench has some youth with George Hill, Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter. What they don’t have is someone who can consistently elevate the play of those around them. Hill looks great but the net effect is lacking. Bonner is gritty but ultimately if his outside shot isn’t falling he doesn’t provide much. Neal can score but he doesn’t make those around him better. Blair is a bull but not talented enough to stop the Grizzlies inside.