Going into last night’s Spurs-Warriors game, and I had two ways of looking about things. Part of me thought I should clearly be pulling for the Warriors. Not only would a Game 7 give the Grizzlies a major advantage in terms of rest, but on the off chance the Warriors had actually came back and won the series, they’d be a less scary opponent than San Antonio. Another part of me just wanted it to be over. We were obviously going to play the Spurs, and the sooner that would become fact, the happier I’d be.
The basketball gods chose the second option. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry both barely missed key threes in the final two minutes, while Tony Parker – who had been struggling all game – hit two big ones from downtown to clinch the series. So, it’s settled. Grizzlies. Spurs. Game 1 on Sunday afternoon.
It makes almost too much sense that the Grizzlies are playing San Antonio next. In the first two rounds, they’ve exacted revenge on the teams who dispatched them in 2011 and 2012, now the first team the Grizzlies ever won a playoff series against looks to even the score themselves. We have two more days to bask in the joy of knowing that the Memphis Grizzlies actually are in the Western Conference Finals before Game 1 tips off and we go back to the grind.
The Spurs won’t be an easy opponent. After struggling through the first two games of the Warriors series, the idea of “maybe they’re too old” came up once again. They responded by stepping up their game thoroughly, and basically dominating the rest of the series. It really doesn’t matter what age Tim Duncan, he’s still going to be extremely tough to stop. Thankfully, the Grizzlies have the rare defense that is up to the task. Make no mistake, the duel between Duncan and Marc in this series is going to be amazing.
In each of the first two rounds, the Grizzlies were faced with the task of overcoming a superstar player. They were able to handle Chris Paul and Kevin Durant in impressive fashion, rarely letting either one take over a game by himself. The Spurs lack any individual player as dominant as KD or CP3, but Duncan and Tony Parker both come pretty close, while Manu Ginobili continues to be one of the best 6th men in the league.
This will be a tough series because the Grizzlies are finally facing a team who is just as good at being a team is they are. The Clippers lean heavily on CP3 and Blake, while the Thunder were lost without Westbrook, basically asking Durant to do everything. The Spurs are not like that. They are a monument to cohesion, as they play the game as beautifully as any team in the league. The goal of the Grizzlies will be to disrupt that; to keep Danny Green and Gary Neal from being wide open for easy threes; to keep Tony Parker from somehow getting to the hoop by himself, to keep the Spurs from getting into that groove that makes them impossible to defend.
This is going to be a great series. Can the Grizzlies win? Absolutely. But it’s going to be very tough. Another five-game series would be nice, but I expect the Spurs to be tougher than that, to give the Grizzlies the best challenge they’ve had yet. Enjoy the next 45 hours, folks, because on Sunday afternoon, it’s about to get intense.