LOCATION: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphis(40-33) finishes their brutal stretch of games at home against the limping San Antonio Spurs. This game finishes a brutal week and a brutal 28 days where the Grizzlies played 14 games against 11 playoff teams and 7 divisional leaders. A loss would leave the Grizzlies at 7-7 over the stretch so they can do no worse than .500 over that span. The Chicago loss showed the team’s tough side as they stood toe to toe against the Bulls in their backyard.
San Antonio (57-15) is an aging team and yet were remarkably injury free for the most part until Tim Duncan twisted his ankle three games ago. Suddenly the well-oiled franchise is looking shaky having lost at Denver and Portland heading into Memphis. What is amazing is not that San Antonio lost both games but how competitive the team was in both despite the loss of Duncan. San Antonio is struggling but they aren’t falling apart.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsTony Parker
Tony Parkerwas fastbefore Rajon Rondo or Derrick Rose were even know. Once again Mike Conley will be counted on to make the plays to slow him down. Conley’s has not been dominating in the two previous games but he did enough to slow his opponent down, holding Rondo to 2-12 from the field and Rose to 6-22. Conley’s improvement defensively will be crucial in slowing down Parker. Slow down Parker and you slow down the Spurs. Parker is assuming a greater offensive role this year and is shooting career highs in FG% and 3 pt%.
Advantage: San Antonio
Shooting Guards:Tony Allen vsManu Ginobili
Is anyone on San Antonio’s roster is more unhappy with Duncan’s injury than Manu Ginobili? The soon to be 34 yr oldArgentian is being asked to pick upa lot of the slack. Offensively Ginobili is a three way threat, capable of hitting long range bombs, drive into the lane and create fouls to get to the line. Manu is also sly on defense averaging 1.6 spg. Tony Allen knows a lot about sneaking into passing lanes. His 1.7 spg is even more remarkable when you consider he has averaged fewer than 20 mpg this season. Tony is an opportunistic and emotional scorer but not a pure shooter like Manu.
Advantage: San Antonio
Small Forwards: Sam Young vsRichard Jefferson
What’s happened to Richard Jefferson? Jefferson was a top 20 scorer in the league as recently as 2008-09 but has disappeared in the Spurs offense. Jefferson has become the spot up 3 pt shooting specialist now and he’s pretty effective at that hitting 42.9% of his 3 pt attempts but you have to wonder what he could do on this team if he wasn’t asked to replicate Bruce Bowen’s role. Sam Young is learning how to play the game and defensively he can do a good job. Offensively he’s mostly a slasher who can elevate over most people to score at the rim but his outside shot still needs a lot of work.
Advantage: San Antonio
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsAntonio McDyes
Antonio McDyes was once one of the most feared big men in the league. Now he is finishing out his career on a championship caliber team as a role player. A solid role player but a role player just the same. McDyes was 1-4 against Portland so the Spurs lost a big force on their team when Duncan went down. Zach Randolph has not been the player he was in February. Still he’s averaging 18.9 ppg and 9.2 rpg. This is probably the easiest matchup Z-Bo has had this month.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs Tiago Splitter
Splitter is supposed to be the nextgreat bigman for San Antonio. If so then Duncan needs to play at least on more season because Splitter doesn’t look ready yet despite being 26 an having been a force in the Spanish league. Splitter did go 5-5 against Portland but he was not a factor in the game. Gasol, another Spanish league product has woken up from a full season slumber to post back to back double-doubles and was a huge force in the Chicago game. Hopefully Gasol, who was slowed with an ankle injury most of the season is ready for a strong playoff push.
Benches:Memphisvs San Antonio
San Antonio’s bench is being pushed to produce without Tim Duncan on the floor. Duncan’s presence in the middle helps open perimeter jump shots for George Hill and Matt Bonner. Without his presence inside those shots are contested more which hurts their effectiveness. DeJaun Blair’s offensive liabilities are more exposed as well. Memphis’ bench is starting to become a serious strength on this team. Leon Powe had his second consecutive double figure scoring night, Darell Arthur continues to make big plays on both sides of the court and even O J Mayo is beginning to show flashes of the player he was the last two years. Greivis Vasquez seems to have regained his backup PG role for now but the real unsung bench hero has been Shane Battier who’s unselfish play has helped keep everyone pointed in the right direction.