Spurs vs. Grizzlies Series Preview
Making it to the Western Conference Finals is certainly no easy task – especially with how stacked the conference was this season – but neither the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies are celebrating just yet. Both teams have their sights set on the ultimate prize, the 2012-2013 NBA Championship.
Both teams have navigated a treacherous road and now they prepare to engage in what should be an entertaining and heated battle featuring veteran experience on one side and a stout defensive-minded wrecking crew on the other.
After mowing through the Lakers and after enduring a hard-fought series with the Warriors, the Spurs have proved that they are more than a regular-season team. They’ve brought their A game with them to the postseason, but they’ll have to get even better to beat the Grizzlies.
Memphis ended the regular season schedule with the league’s top ranked defense, a defense that proved to be too much to handle for the Clippers and the Russell Westbrook-less Thunder, but now they’ll face a team that hardly ever makes mistakes and practices perfect execution.
On paper, these teams match-up very evenly. Both like to play in the halfcourt and both pride themselves on executing every possession. Both teams also love to play the inside-out game that starts with the post play of Tim Duncan for the Spurs; and Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol for the Grizzlies.
When looking at the times they played each other this year, a clear favorite still doesn’t emerge. They split the season series 2-2 and not only that, but they went to overtime twice and split those games 1-1 as well. And only one of the four games was won by more than four points.
Memphis has the obvious advantage at its defensive end, but it will probably be a smaller edge against San Antonio than it was against OKC or the Los Angeles Clippers. The Grizzlies imposed their will and their pace of play against the speedier higher-scoring Thunder and Clippers, but the Spurs will be comfortable playing in the halfcourt and since they are so well balanced, they’ll be able to choose whether to go inside to Duncan or play the perimeter with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The real advantage in this match-up may reside within the frame of the youth-versus-experience argument. On the one hand, the Grizzlies are younger and may be able to outlast the Spurs in a long series – which this would almost certainly be – and on the other hand, the Spurs’ valuable experience in clutch situations and in decisive games may aid them in making the heady plays down the stretch. After all, this is the first time Memphis has made the Western Finals, whereas San Antonio has been here several times before and has even won championships.
Of course, that argument isn’t always the most compelling. Since this series will most likely go the distance, home court will be huge. In fact, it may be the biggest advantage of all in a series as evenly matched as this one. And since the Spurs have the home court in this best-of-seven, I like the Spurs to prevail in seven games, with the last game coming down to the wire. Who knows? Maybe that championship experience will come in handy with everything on the line in game seven.