We talked earlier today about some of the possible benefits from the Memphis Grizzlies' loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, but should the Grizz be preparing themselves for an even tougher road to victory tonight?
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Sure, there's truth to the idea that a team does not improve when its All-Star point guard goes down for 2-4 weeks, but this is where the Spurs get you. The Spurs want you to read the press releases and breathe easier, even if just a tad. The Spurs want to win this one not for Tony Parker, but because of Tony Parker. Because he's out, and maybe you think they're a bit weaker. San Antonio is going for its 50th win of the season tonight, and, unlike recent seasons, they are not just getting up to cruising altitude. The Spurs started this season at full speed and haven't looked back since. They've been motivating themselves for games with far less energy than this one will have tonight for months now. And oh, in case they needed it, they're shorthanded. They're the underdogs again, right where they want to be. The true value of injuries and setbacks, obviously not actually helpful by nature, is that they provide a continuous flow of motivation.
So there's that. There's also the matter of Sunday's game. The Grizzlies banged on the Spurs some; during their comeback, Memphis was bullying them outright, actually. The Grizzlies came back from the abyss and took the lead late. There's little doubt they have the Spurs' full attention, and they didn't even win the game. Of course, part of the reason for San Antonio's collective ears to be perked also comes in the form of proximity. They played these guys two nights ago; it's the same reason a playoff series can get chippy, as the commentators say.
Looking back, that game on Sunday night likely could've gone two other ways. One, Memphis could have checked out after San Antonio's early onslaught, remembered that they'll get another shot at the same team soon enough, and tried to wrap the game up before "Best Motion Picture" was announced, or two, they could have completed the comeback and won the thing.
As for option one, we can take solace in the fact that we don't need to seriously discuss it. Memphis is in this for the long haul, and the players realize no game at this point in the season is worth so little that it's worth throwing to the wayside.
That leaves us with what we have tonight. Had the Grizzlies either won or did what they did in coming back and pushing the Spurs to the limit, each probably would've brought the same focused, out-for-blood Spurs team. The Parker injury likely didn't help cool things off. The only chance at getting a maybe slightly unprepared San Antonio squad left when the Grizzlies showed heart. Figures.
It's great for the Spurs, to have the motivation given to them by a bruising, rough-housing Memphis team. And as we know, the Grizz need no motivation; they need the win to add to the Big Game Resume and to stay above water in the battle for eighth place out West.
The problem is, Memphis got the attention but not the win on Sunday. They played pretty darned well for stretches, equally chaotic and unorganized in others, but in the end lost. Now they have to do it all over again, against a Spurs team that could be even more prepared than the one they saw on Sunday, and the Grizzlies are the team in need of a win more here. It's the worst of both worlds.
So, simply put, Memphis will have to be better than their Sunday's best to get this win tonight. San Antonio will likely demand that of them. It's not supposed to be easy, and that's fine. Easy means you haven't gotten their attention.