LOCATION:AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
MEDIA:TNT, Fox Sports Tennessee,Soul Classics 103.5 FM
Memphis(3-2)returns to the Forum.or should I say the Grindhouse, Friday for their second attempt to put away the San AntonioSpurs. The Grizzlies came as close as possibleWednesday night in San Antonio buttheteam’s inexperience and the Spurs great shooting snatchedvictory away in overtime. The Grizzlies now must get back on top of their game and focus on handling things at home. Memphis has been led all season by Zach Randolph and it was no different down the stretch in this game as for the first time all season the Grizzlies lost agame where Z-Bo scored 10 points in the 4th quarter. Mke Conleyand Sam Young were excellent, especially in the first half.The Grizzlies have shown they are capableof scaring San Antonio. Now they have to mature enough todefeat them.
San Antonio(2-3)looked defeat in the face and refused toback down scoring 5 points in the final 2.2 seconds of regulation to pull out a victory at home. Now the Spurs need a repeat effort in Game 6 to force a series deciding game in San Antonio. Led by Manu Ginobili (33 pts) and Tony Parker (24 pts including threee baskets in OT), The Spurs need to muster another huge effort on the road to send the series back for the deciding game. Tim Duncan has looked old the entire series but is still one of the greatest NBA players of all time. To win the game the Spurs backcourt needs to dominate the Grizzlies and the frontcourt has to be hard on the glass and defensively in the paint. The Spurs are down but they are far from out.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsTony Parker
San Antonio entered the series assuming a large advantage at the point but for4 and a half game Mike Conley held his own in the battle.However in thesecond half and overtime Tony Parker dominated Conley scoring 6 hugepoints in OT and holding Conley to 1-11 shootingafter intermission. Conley’s mental toughness has been questioned in the past but this season he’s done a goodjob of putting those concerns to bed. How he responds to his second half collapse could dictate the Grizzlies fortunes in this game and the series.
Advantage: San Antonio
Shooting Guards:Tony Allenvs Manu Ginobili
Tony Allen said that one guard in particular gives him more trouble than anyone else in the league. He never said who the player was but the way this series has gone it isn’t hard to imagine that Allen was talking about Manu Ginobili. Manu is averaging 21.8 ppg in the series and explodedin game 4 for33 points. Throw in 4.5 rpg and 4.8 apg and Manu’s dominance over the Grizzlies best perimeter defender is the only reason the Spurs are still alive in the series. Allen is not having a good seiries at all averaging just 8.6 ppg. Allen also missed a alyup and aquestionable three point shot in OT.
Advantage: San Antonio
Small Forwards:Sam YoungvsRichard Jefferson
Sam Young was challenged to beat theSpurs in Game4 and damn near did. Young scored a careerplayoff high 18 points on 7-12 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds but missed a three point shot with 24 seconds remaining in regulation that could have iced the game for the Grizzlies. Sam did a good job on Jefferson defensively not surrendering any points to the former all-star in the 4th quarter and OT while guarding him (although Jefferson did score a basket andmade a free throw in the 4th while Young was on the bench). Jefferson finished the game with only 6points and has looked outclassed by Young the entire series.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsAntonio McDyess
Zach Randolph looked like the hero of the night with his big scoring down the stretch in the 4th quarter but a superior effort by the Spurs forcedOT. Zach opened the OT period with four straight points for the Grizzlies but it wasn’t enough. Z-Bo had his 3rd double-double game scoring 26 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, dishing out 6 assists and blocking a shot. Antonio McDyess kept his mouth piece in hismouth in game 5but was obvioulsy unhappywith Z-Bo’s domination of the matchup. Howeverthe Spurs performed better with McDyess in the game than the individual numbers suggest asSan Antonio was +11when he was on the court. McDyesslost the individual battle but his team won the war. It will take another effort like that fromMcDyess for theSpurs to return home for a game 7. At 36 one wonders how many more games like that he can play.
Centers:Marc GasolvsTim Duncan
Marc Gasol had another double-doublewith 11 points and 17 reboounds but was only 5-14 shooting the ball. Gasolhas been a high FG% shooter since entering the league and will need tofind his shot again for the Grizzlies to pull out a win. When Gasol isn’t hitting his shot teams canfocus on slowingdown Randolph. Duncan has switched back and forth between Z-Bo and Gasol over the series and that may be affecting his offensive effectiveness. His 5-13 shooting in game fivewasnot typical for Duncan in a pressure packed game. Duncan clearly can still envision what he needs to do but his bodyno longerexecutes the way it did in his career. The Spurs need Duncan toplay defense not offense thesedays so if he can limit the Grizzlies paint points heis doing his job.
Benches:Memphisvs San Antonio
O J Mayo had anotherup and down performance. He scored 9 points on 3-4 shootingwith a 3 and two free throws but he also was burned on Gary Neal’s shot at the end of regulation. Darrell Arthur followed his stirring game 4 shooting performance with a 2-7 let down. Greivis Vasquez looked good attimes but made too many poor decisions with the ball too. The Grizzlies bench is talented enough tooutplay theSpurs bench but they have looked inexperiencedtoo often while the Spursbench with George Hill, Matt Bonner and Gary Neal has looked older, wiser and have made bigger playswhen it mattered. Perhaps the biggestchangeduring the series has been Tiago Splitter replacing DeJuan Blair in therotation. Splitter’ssize and offense have been difficult for the Grizzlies to matchupagainst.