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Western Conference Finals Preview

The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will now look to advance to the NBA finals.

The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will now look to advance to the NBA finals.

The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs will contest the 2013 Western Conference finals beginning Sunday, with Game 1 scheduled to take place at AT&T Center in San Antonio’s east side.

The matchup – which is a repeat of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals – pits two teams that have bruised and barged their way through the regular season and the playoffs so far. Forget about glitzy run-and-gun style offenses, this series is going to be slow, physical, and tough.

While the NBA brass may have preferred something a little more glamorous, this series is one for the basketball purists.

Upstart Grizzlies

Few expected the Grizzlies to make it this far, or look this good. At the start of the season, Lionel Hollins’ side was 18/1 (sixth) to win the Western Conference and 35/1 (12th) to win the NBA championship. Those odds are looking considerably shorter right now.

Memphis fended off two high-octane offensives in the opening two playoff rounds. The Los Angeles Clippers fell in six games while the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder dropped in five.

Both sides failed to contend with Memphis’ inside game, with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol making the most of their time in the paint. Now the Grizzlies will hope that the same tactic works against the four-time NBA champions.

Teamwork has paid off so far for the Grizzlies. Can the underdogs do it again?

Teamwork has paid off so far for the Grizzlies. Can the underdogs do it again?

Stalwart Spurs

Only the Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers were favored ahead of San Antonio in the Western Conference, who began the season with 6/1 odds to win the conference and 12/1 odds to win the NBA title.

Making a 23rd playoff appearance in 24 seasons, the Spurs are veterans and bettors should have learned over that course not to discount the side. This marks the ninth time during that span that the Spurs have advanced to the Western Conference finals, including eight since Tim Duncan was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in 1997.

San Antonio is 4-6 all-time in the Western Conference finals, winning series in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 and taking home the NBA title to boot.

The Spurs made (very) easy work of the Lakers in the opening round, sweeping the series. Things proved a little more difficult in the semifinals, but after splitting the opening four games with the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs readjusted and took Games 5 and 6 to advance.

Season Head-to-Head

The division rivals met four times this season, splitting the series evenly.

Dec. 1: Memphis 95, San Antonio 99

Jan. 11: San Antonio 98, Memphis 101

Jan. 16: Memphis 82, San Antonio 103

Apr. 1: San Antonio 90, Memphis 92

Both teams defended their home court in what was a very close series of games. Three were decided by four points or less, with only the Spurs’ early January victory being considered decisive.

Looking ahead, there’s little to suggest that things will be any different moving forward. These teams match up very well.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News’ Spurs Nation blog compiled this mostly spot-on blog comparing Spurs and Grizzlies players. He ranks Tim Duncan ahead of Randolph at the power forward position, but this could prove to be Z-Bo’s coming out party. Regardless of which side you come down on, this will be an intriguing individual contest.

San Antonio are favored to win the series in seven games.

San Antonio are favored to win the series in seven games.

Previous Playoff Encounters

Memphis and San Antonio have met twice in postseason action.

The first encounter came back in 2004. Memphis made its first postseason appearance in franchise history that season, entering the opening round series as the No. 6 seed. The third-seeded Spurs made short work of the series, sweeping the Grizzlies.

Things were very different two years ago. San Antonio finished the regular season with a Western Conference best 61-21 record and the top seed. The Grizzlies meanwhile were awarded a No. 8 seed after compiling a worse division record than the New Orleans Hornets. Roles were reversed though as the Grizzlies took the opening game of what would be a six-game series.

The Spurs evened it up in Game 2 but a pair of consecutive wins gave the Grizzlies a decisive advantage. San Antonio regrouped in Game 5 but it was Memphis that proved victorious in Game 6, giving the Grizzlies a first ever playoff series win, and becoming only the fourth No. 8 seed to disperse of a top-seeded side, joining the Denver Nuggets (1994), New York Knicks (1999), and Golden State (2007). Only the Warriors previously had taken a best-of-seven series from the No. 8 spot. Winning in six, Memphis was the only team on that list to win the series without going to a final game.

Therefore, San Antonio leads the postseason head-to-head 6-4 in games played, while the two sides are 1-1 in series won.

As an aside, consider this: the winning side in 2004 and 2011 was eliminated in the following round, which is a bad omen for whichever team makes it to the NBA finals against either the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers

Series Betting Options

Exact_SeriesBovada is offering a plethora of betting options ahead of the Western Conference finals.

The sportsbook currently has San Antonio at 5/1 to win the NBA championship, marginally ahead of Memphis at 6/1. Miami remains the overall favorite at 1/3.

San Antonio (10/13) is currently favored over Memphis (11/10) to win the series, with bookmakers expecting the series to end at AT&T Center (2/3) rather than FedEx Forum (6/5).

Although the Spurs are the favorites, bookmakers expect the series to go the distance. San Antonio winning in seven has the shortest odds available.

Bovada also has plenty of player props for bettors to sink their teeth into.

Player props: Will Marc Gasol better 15 1/2 points and 8 rebounds per game?

Player props: Will Marc Gasol better 15 1/2 points and 8 rebounds per game?

Game 1 Betting Options

Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs Odds for 5/19/13 (Game 1) are available now.

San Antonio opens as the favorite at home with the spread at 4 1/2. Bettors should be aware of Memphis’ prowess against the spread this postseason though.

After failing to cover the spread in Game 1 against the Clippers, the Grizzlies (10-1-0 ATS) have covered in 10 straight games, including five on the road.

The Spurs (7-3-0 ATS) covered all games in the opening round, but Golden State – another team that fared very well against the spread this postseason – split the series evenly.

Memphis is 5-0-0 ATS at home and 5-1-0 ATS on the road. San Antonio is 3-2-0 ATS at home and 4-1-0 ATS away from AT&T Center.

During the regular season, the two sides split the spread evenly, each covering once at home and once away, as well as once as a favorite and once as an underdog.

The over/under in Game 1 opened at 184. Memphis (7-4-0) favored the over during the regular season and continues to do so this postseason. San Antonio (4-6-0) favored the under all season and continues to follow that trend this postseason.

In four regular season meetings this year, the two sides saw the total go under three times and over once.



GAME 1: Memphis at San Antonio (Sun, May 19, 3:30 pm ET)

GAME 2: Memphis at San Antonio (Tue, May 21, 9:00 pm ET)

GAME 3: San Antonio at Memphis (Sat, May 25, 9:00 pm ET)

GAME 4: San Antonio at Memphis (Mon, May 27, 9:00 pm ET)

GAME 5: Memphis at San Antonio (Wed, May 29, 9:00 pm ET)*

GAME 6: San Antonio at Memphis (Fri, May 31, 9:00 pm ET)*

GAME 7: Memphis at San Antonio (Sun, Jun 2, 9:00 pm ET)*

*If necessary

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