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Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs
When: Saturday, May 25, 8:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series Standing: Memphis trails 0-2
Media: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of BlueGrizzlies Message Board
Opposing Views: 48 Minutes of Hell

Grizzlies LogoMemphis fought a valiant fight in Game Two. The Grizzlies dug themselves deep into a hole early on, but did not curl up into a ball with their backs against the wall. They ratcheted up that Grit n’ Grind defense, as they allowed a mere 9 points in the fourth quarter to a Spurs offense that torched them for a combined 61 in quarters two and three. Immediately following the bout, ESPN’s Bill Simmons was quoted as saying “Memphis is like a boxer,” in regards to the Grizzlies’ ability to go deep into games and figure things out as the opponent wears down. Ultimately, however, after forcing an overtime, the good guys could not overcome the putrid 34% shooting from the field, their sub-70% performance from the charity stripe, and some poor offensive execution late in the overtime period. So now, this one heads to the Grindhouse, with the Grizzlies facing an 0-2 deficit, with a few days under their belt to figure out how to turn this ship around.

Spurs LogoSan Antonio absolutely dominated the Grizzlies again in the first three quarters of Game Two, only to see their lead evaporate heading into the final minutes, and only at the end of overtime did they manage to pull the pieces together. They face a similar task to that of the Clippers, of heading into the FedEx Forum planted firmly in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead. The Spurs are a dangerous animal, as even if the Grizzlies manage to take care of business at home, one can be certain that they will be able to adjust in ways that L. A. could not, and their role players are capable of stepping up to relieve their top options when they cannot get it going.

For individual matchup analyses, check out the Series Post


– Ball watching. And a lot of it. From both parties, to be honest. The Grizzlies have spent just about every defensive possession with all eyes on the ball handler, and for good reason. The handlers, mainly Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, are supremely skilled in terms of slashing, and finishing either at the rim, or on the pull-up. The problem is, they’re pretty good at distributing the ball, too. Beyond that, the waiting recipients of said distribution are darn good at letting it fly. Again, the Spurs were able to extend an advantage over the Grizzlies, by making the most of these opportunities, and connecting on long-range bombs. Hence you have the Spurs with 29 assists on 36 field goals. It all stands to note, however, that the Spurs have been ball-watching as well — a lot. San Antonio has had all eyes on the ball, to see when, where, and how the Grizz will try to work it into the paint. The difference is clear, though — the Grizzlies simply do not have the firepower to make them pay for it. Memphis on the whole has some serious issues with connecting on shots outside the painted area (and even inside in Game Two), and San Antonio knows it. It is a whole lot easier to pack the paint on defense when you can almost flat out refuse to oblige anybody not named Mike Conley beyond the free throw line.

– The Spurs absolute denial of the entry pass. When Tayshaun Prince came over from Detroit and supplanted Rudy Gay in the starting rotation, the team’s offense saw a rise in efficiency. Many chalked it up to Gay’s ball-stopping ways being eradicated from the team’s execution, and in part they were right. That did not tell the whole story, however, as there was another major element introduced to the team at the same time: Prince’s superior ability to time and execute the entry pass to the big men. Well, this hallmark of the Grizzlies’ offense has suddenly been ripped from them by the Spurs’ positioning and Gregg Popovich’s masterfully drawn up scheming in these first two games. Even when the entry pass does make it into the hands of the bigs, the Spurs have done an excellent job of ensuring that it is never a clean recovery by the big, which has caused the Grizz to have a real mess of a time trying to get the ball to the bigs in rhythm. Which brings us to…

– Zach Randolph. The big fella continued to struggle against the Spurs early on, who have made a concerted effort to ensure that he does not get comfortable in this series. They have thrown a plethora of defensive looks his way, meeting him with a variation of defenders. Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, and even Kawhi Leonard have been matched up on him at some point in Game Two. He was met as well by double and even triple teams on many occasions. He didn’t only see these on the ball, as when the ball goes up, Pop has his guys retreating to Z-Bo, and either pinning him away from the glass, or tipping the ball away from his direction. Later in the game, however, that train got moving and picked up some steam, as Z-Bo finished the night with 15 points, 18 boards, and an uncharacteristic 2 blocks. He will have to get his free throws in check though, and I don’t expect him to miss 5-8 from the line tonight.

– Frustration. The difficulty which the Grizzlies are having to execute their game plan has frustrated the team in a vividly apparent manner. The deflated desperation on some trips down the floor, especially on the offensive end, has lead to some dejected body language, complaints to the officials, a few mindless fouls, rushed shot attempts, missed opportunities at the rim, and – sigh – has likely contributed to those missed free throws. The Grizz have fought, scratched, and clawed to work down the deficits that they have dug themselves into, and I cannot imagine anything being more frustrating than cutting it close, only to have that chance vanquished with the Spurs pulling back away. They have come too far to get down on themselves at this point, and need to maintain their swagger.

– Quincy Pondexter has been huge in this series. His presence as the only true wing player with the ability to hit the 3 ball has made a world of a difference for the Grizzlies’ offensive game, as having him on the court allows the Grizz to extend one more Spurs player out of the paint. To top it off he has gotten really good at working the pump fake to take advantage of defenders that are late on the close-out out of the play entirely. His dunk in the 4th was also a big momentum play, and his 8 rebounds were huge. Lastly, his dog, Buckets, is a sweet follow on Twitter. With the way he has been playing, I would not be surprised to see him eat up some more of Prince’s minutes.

Some Final Musings:

– Tony Wroten could be a player in this league, but his jumper is either going to need some dramatic improvement, or he has to develop a floater. This is something we have already known for sure, but opposing defenses have written the book on how to play him, and he has no way to respond just yet. Defenders sag all the way off until he gets into the paint, and his play has been to put his head down and head to the rim. When he gets there, it’s packed and if he doesn’t draw the foul, the ball is going the other way.

– Jerryd Bayless: love the confidence, but it is a gift and a curse in these do-or-die situations. The saying goes, “you live by the sword, you die by the sword,” which seems to apply pretty well here, especially regarding the way that the final possessions of Game Two played out.

– The lack of Mike Conley early on due to foul trouble seemed to work two ways for the Grizzlies. He racked up 3 fouls in the first half, and the point at which he picked up the third served as somewhat of a turning point, as the Spurs blew the gates open with him on the bench. I say that it worked two ways, because with Conley fresh in the fourth, he was a big difference maker down the stretch. Certainly you do not want to see Conley in early foul trouble again in Game Three, but it is interesting how things work out. The same concept applies to Tim Duncan late in the game.

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