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Western Conference Finals
Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs
When: 2:30 PM CST
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Records: Memphis (0-0), San Antonio (0-0)
Media: ABC, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of BlueGrizzlies Message Board

Grizzlies LogoMemphis is playing in their first Conference Finals in franchise history against a team that knows them as well as any other team in the league. Actually better since these teams have played against each other twice in the playoff previously. Memphis enters the game with all the pressure on their backs but some well known people such as Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson believing this is their year. To make the NBA Finals the Grizzlies will need to play the best they have all season. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are the focal performers, as the duo is averaging a combined 38 points and 17.2 rebounds over the course of the postseason. Mike Conley has combined with Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince for a devastating combination of defense and surprising offense. For Conley the surprise has been his effectiveness under pressure. For Allen and Prince however the surprise has been the sporaticness of their scoring. The bench has been hot and cold but in the playoffs the issue is not how well the bench has played but how rarely. As long as the Grizzlies starting five can stay on the court the team should be fine. Delving too deep into the bench could be disaster.

Spurs Logo

 

San Antonio is back to the conference finals for the 2nd year in a row after being pronounced dead after their first round loss to Memphis in 2011. While not the top seed they were the last two seasons as the Spurs coasted down the stretch to finish 2nd, The Spurs have had the easier route to the conference finals. The Lakers were dead men walking in the first round without Kobe Bryant. Golden State put a scare into the Spurs before Curry’s bum ankle and a revamped defense helped the Spurs finish the Warriors in 6 games. At first glance not much has changed from the Spurs team that lost to the Grizzlies but a closer look reveals many significant changes. Duncan is not the same player he was, Manu Ginobili isn’t as injured as he was and the supporting cast is stronger, taller and much better fits to the San Antonio system. However, Father Time is still creeping closer every day. The Spurs have dealt with injury issues for Manu and Parker while Duncan’s increased playoff workload always worries people.

Expected Starting Lineups:

index.html.jpgTony Parker
Mike Conley vs Tony Parker
Conley:
40.2 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 39.9 FG%, 31.1 3pt%, 4.6 RPG, 7.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.9 TOPG, 18.38 PER, .195 WP48
Parker:
36.0 MPG, 23.4 PPG, 47.6 FG%, 30.8 3pt%, 4.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 TOPG, 23.10 PER, .18 WP48 
 Tony Parker and Mike Conley have been compared since Conley entered the league.  Both players were given the starter’s job as rookies. Both struggled in that role as first. Parker was the whipping boy for Popovich but handled the abuse to become a strong leader. Conley was more protected by Hollins, at least publicly, but has also emerged into the clear cut team leader. These two players control the destiny of their teams as much as any of their bigger teammates. Parker is the gas that drives the old car. Conley is slightly less of the pusher than Parker but is still the player that makes things happen. This matchup is so important for both teams it is likely that they won’t be guarding each other full-time to prevent them from being worn out playing defense and not be able to run the offense effectively at the end of games. Conley is the up and coming challenger but Parker has the resume.  
Advantage: San Antonio

Tony AllenDanny Green
Tony Allen vs Danny Green
Allen:
28.8 PPG, 11.1 PPG, 45.2 FG%, 28.6 3pt%, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.3 TOPG, 13.26 PER, .169 WP48
Green:
30.7 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 44.2 FG%, 41.7 3pt%, 4.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.7 TOPG, 14.19 PER, .189 WP48
Danny Green has developed from a fringe NBA player to a solid player with excellent defensive ability. Tony Allen has developed from a solid bench player to an All-NBA Defensive player. Neither player is exactly an offensive threat which means this matchup may exist more on paper than on the court. Allen will likely spend most of his tome guarding Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Green will match up against Conley more than Allen as well. One major advantage Green has is a superior outside shot. Green is careful with the ball as well. Surprisingly Allen has been the more prolific overall scorer in the playoffs this year but the differences are not that great. Still Allen is an elite defender while Green is just very good. 
Advantage: Memphis

 

Tayshaun PrinceKawhi Leonard
Tayshaun Prince vs Kawhi Leonard
Prince:
32.1 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 35.4 FG%, 25.0 3pt%, 4.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.4 BPG, 0.5 SPG, 11.53 PER, .08 WP48
Leonard:
37.7 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 55.6 FG%, 34.8 3pt%, 8.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.5 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 16.46 PER, .247 WP48
Tayshaun Prince was given the difficult job of replacing Rudy Gay in Memphis. It hasn’t gotten any easier in the playoffs despite the team’s success. Matt Barnes scored 30 points against Prince in last game and Kevin Durant averaged 30.8 PPG in the 2nd round but neither player’s individual performances were enough. Prince’s defense isn’t spectacular but technically excellent. Durant especially suffered at the end of games as the constant need to beat the properly played defensive position of Prince wore him out. Leonard is not the prolific scorer that either Barnes or Durant but he is a capable young player who has made his mark on the team this season and stepped up even more in the playoffs. Leonard will attack Prince with athleticism more than shooting skill. He has the ability to out-hustle and wear down Prince more than anyone Prince has faced in the playoffs so far. 
Advantage: San Antonio

 

Zach RandolphTim Duncan

Zach Randolph vs Tim Duncan
Randolph:
36.4 MPG, 19.7 PPG, 51.2 FG%, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG, 17.92 PER, .161 WP48
Duncan: 34.7 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 45.0 FG%, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 24.45 PER, .23 WP48
Tim Duncan is a veteran’s veteran and not just because he was a veteran while most NBA players were still in grade school. He also has a little history against Randolph. In the 2011 series, Randolph dominated the Spurs so completely that Duncan re-dedicated himself to the game. He lost weight, improved his diet and worked on his strength and flexibility. The result is possibly the most remarkable season for s 37 year old in the NBA. Randolph was playing like an all-star until injuring his ankle in Miami. He literally limped into the playoffs. Then Randolph matched up against the team that dumped him for Blake Griffin and he was reborn. Randolph will need to play at a high level for Memphis to have any chance but he doesn’t have to carry the team as much as he did in 2011 for the Grizzlies to win.
Advantage: San Antonio


Marc GasolTiago Splitter
Marc Gasol vs Tiago Splitter
Gasol:
40.3 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 47.6 FG%, 7.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.2 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 19.57 PER, .176 WP48
Splitter:
21.9 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 51.5 FG%, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 18.72 PER, .187 WP48
If Leonard has an advantage over Prince, it isn’t as potentially damaging as Gasol could be over Spitter could be. Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, has unleashed a deadly shot from the free throw line to go with his excellent passing game to become a complete force in the middle for Memphis. His scoring is up over 4 points a game in the playoffs while still quarterbacking the defense. Splitter has not been as effective in the playoffs as he had been in the regular season as well. The Spurs may have to move Splitter over on Randolph hoping his height will affect Randolph offensively. Splitter has speed to combat Gasol’s strength but in the playoffs speed isn’t usually as important as the game slows down. 
Advantage: Memphis

Bench Players:

Keyon DoolingCory Joseph
Keyon Dooling vs Corey Joseph
Dooling:
8.5 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 31.6 FG%, 33.3 3pt%, 0.4 APG, 0.0 SPG, 11.25 PER, 0.58 WP48
Joseph:
11.2 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 52.9 FG%, 28.6 3pt%, 1.8 APG, 0.3 SPG, 13.52 PER, 0.13 WP48
If the Spurs can force Memphis to their bench, something neither the Thunder nor Clippers could do consistently, then San Antonio could start to gain some clear advantages, especially at Point Guard. Dooling wasn’t playing in the NBA for most of the season after retiring before the season. Dooling has a decent outside shot but isn’t the floor general that Conley is by any means. Joseph has been growing in his understudy role and has developed into a reliable player in spurts. Joseph isn’t prepared to go 15 or more minutes but has been more than adequate in short shifts filling in for Parker. The same can not be said for Dooling.  
Advantage: San Antonio

Jerryd BaylessGary Neal
Jerryd Bayless vs Gary Neal
Bayless: 19.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 41.9 FG%, 32.6 3pt%, 1.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, 13.51 PER, 0.96 WP48
Neal: 16.9 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 25.0 FG%, 25.0 3pt%, 0.7 APG, 0.3 SPG, 11.59 PER, 0.10 WP48
If Memphis has a bench player with a clear advantage over his opponent it is at SG. Bayless, while struggling in the playoffs some, has been a reliable contributor for the Grizzlies at both guard positions this season and their most consistent scorer off the bench. Bayless brings perimeter shooting when replacing Allen which helps spread the court. Capable of creating his own shot, if teams hunker down to stop the Grizzlies interior game, Bayless can punish teams from outside. Neal was a great perimeter shooter in the past but has lost his shot, especially in the playoffs and is not the threat he used to be.
Advantage: Memphis

Quincy PondexterManu Ginobili
Quincy Pondexter vs Manu Ginobili
Pondexter:
20.7 MPG, 6.5 PPG, 45.3 FG%, 42.9 3p%, 2.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 10.98 PER, 0.13 WP48
Ginobili:
25.6 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 37.7 FG%, 33.3 3pt%, 4.2 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 19.05 PER, 0.163 WP48
If there has been a better 6th man over the last decade than Manu Ginobili someone will have to make a great argument to convince me. The problem for San Antonio is that 10 years is a long time and Manu is starting to show the wear and tear from that time on top. What Ginobili has lost shooting he more than makes up for in drawing fouls and defense. Ginobili can create fouls when driving as well as anyone and fouls are what the Grizzlies bigs need to avoid. Pondexter was on his way to breaking out this season before a knee injury slowed his season. In the playoffs he has regained some of that potential but it has been sporadic at best. 
Advantage:
San Antonio

Darrell ArthurMatt Bonner
Darrell Arthur vs Matt Bonner
Arthur:
11.7 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 48.6 FG%, 0.0 3pt%,2.4 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 0.1 SPG, 11.89 PER, -0.54 WP48
Bonner:
15.9 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 51.7 FG%, 57.1 3pt%, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 11.88 PER, 0.80 WP48
Two years ago Darrell Arthur was a momentum changer coming off the bench. That was before a torn achilles and various other injuries deterred his development. Arthur has shown flashes of that player but not consistently enough. Arthur’s speed and athleticism punished the Spurs when Bonner tried to guard him in the past. It will be interesting to see if Arthur can regain some of his former magic this time around. Bonner is one of the best perimeter shooters in the league and has sneaky smarts to get to the rim when defenders overplay him but, at 33, those moments aren’t as frequent as they were two years ago. Randolph and Gasol will struggle to guard Bonner on the perimeter so don’t be surprised to see him replacing Splitter early and often in an attempt to force one of the Grizzlies big men to the bench. 
Advantage: San Antonio

Ed DavisBoris Diaw
Ed Davis vs Boris Diaw
Davis:
5.3 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 0.0 3pt%, 1.3 RPG, 0.0 BPG, 17.82 PER, .216 WP48
Diaw:
17.8 MPG, 4.0 PPG, 47.4 FG%, 50.0 3pt%, 3.0 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 11.96 PER, .074 WP48
Davis was supposed to be the secret steal of the Rudy Gay trade but has struggled to find a place in the Grizzlies rotation so far. His range is limited to around the basket and his FT shooting is a liability. Thin for an interior player, Davis has struggled to find even moments to get on the court in the playoffs but should be able to maneuver inside against Diaw and could be effective if fouls are a problem for the starting bigs. Diaw is a smart player who knows how to use his skills to his advantage in games. Davis was a shot blocker in the regular season and could affect Diaw if he looks to shoot but Diaw knows that isn’t his game. Diaw’s biggest asset is against small ball lineups but that doesn’t expect to be something the Grizzlies do a lot in this series. Diaw can hit the long ball if not guarded however. 
Advantage: San Antonio

Deep Bench:
Memphis - 
If Memphis goes to their deep bench then there are serious problems occurring for the Grizzlies. Jon Leuer has had his moments but is too soft to handle real NBA duty yet. Tony Wroten is a promising rookie who could see the court for a defensive boost but has no outside shot yet and often loses control when driving into the lane not to mention a less than stellar FT shot. Austin Daye has a great outside shot but isn’t strong defensively and hasn’t gained Hollins faith.

San Antonio - The Spurs bench all have Popovich’s faith even when not playing for long stretches. DeJuan Blair is a powerful but undersized big man. Nando de Colo is a fine ball-handler who needs some maturation. Patty Mills is a streak shooter who can punish teams if he is on but doesn’t realize when he isn’t. Mills likely would get court time ahead of de Colo despite the latter’s superior court sense due to his experience in the league.

Advantage: San Antonio

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