GAME: Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs
Time: 7:00 pm CST
PLACE: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (12-12), San Antonio (16-9)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
San Antonio – Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, Tim Duncan
Memphis returns home after a tough 3-game road trip that saw them go 1-2. With their loss to Boston yesterday in a matinee game, the Grizzlies have fallen back to .500 and are currently on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today. Even with the early season injuries, most were probably expecting more a third of the way through the season.
San Antonio is on a 4-game win streak that started with a win in Memphis and most recently included a beatdown of the Thunder on Saturday night. That game against OKC featured an impressive performance by Tony Parker, who posted 42 points, 9 assists and 2 steals, and also by Tim Duncan, who chipped in 13 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Spurs have managed to weather the storm of playing without Manu Ginobili, having gone 13-7 since losing him to a fractured left hand at the start of the season. He’s due to return later this month.
These two teams know each other well as divisional foes, and also due to their playoff meeting last spring. There are no surprises when they face off, so it always comes down to whichever team executes better on a given night. The Grizzlies have been struggling lately due to their lack of quality depth in the frontcourt, which has caused some of their key players to log too many minutes — most notably Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. If you take out the game Conley was injured in (0:24) and his first game back (22:43), he’s averaging over 37 mpg, which puts both players in the top 10 in minutes per game. That’s too many for both of them. Rudy Gay comes in at #13 on the list, by the way. The Spurs on the other hand, don’t have anyone in the top 40 of minutes played (Tony Parker comes in at #44).
For Memphis to win, they will have to do a better job of defending the three-point line than they have recently. One of the keys for the Spurs on Saturday night was that they hit 12-23 three point attempts. That opened up driving lanes for Tony Parker, who only attempted two perimeter shots all night en route to a game high 42 points. Obviously, it would be nice if the Grizzlies actually hit a few threes themselves, since that would open things up in the middle for them on offense, too. Memphis needs to win the battle in the paint, both in rebounds and points in the paint. Their pick-and-roll defense will be key, as we know that has been the Spurs’ bread and butter for years.
For the Spurs to win, they should look to pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop the Grizzlies to death. Without Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur active, they have been suspect against these plays all year long. They’ll also need to hit outside shots to make those screen plays that much more effective.
Prediction: Memphis puts a complete game together and pulls out a win.