WHERE: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: TNT/Fox Sports Southeast
HOW TO LISTEN: 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Tony Allen (Hamstring, Probable)
SAN ANTONIO: NONE
Memphis- Jordan Farmar, Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, Chris Andersen
San Antonio- Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan
FOR THE SAN ANTONIO PERSPECTIVE, CHECK OUT Pounding The Rock
The Memphis Grizzlies, having lost 14 of their last 17 regular season games, enter the 2016 NBA Playoffs as an injured, weakened squad. They are without their best two players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, their best bench player in Mario Chalmers, and they are depending on players who would likely not be getting consistent minutes anywhere else in the NBA like Jordan Farmar and Chris Andersen, among others.
Not the sunniest of propositions, to say the least.
On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs head in to the NBA postseason after posting the best regular season in their history. That is saying something, considering how dominant the Tim Duncan era has been for the Spurs. The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge continues to evolve this roster, Kawhi Leonard is now solidly a top-10 NBA player, and their four future hall of famers (Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and head coach Gregg Popovich) continue to lead this team into yet another postseason appearance.They lost one game at home all season, to the 73-game winning Golden State Warriors, and if it weren't for the Warriors' historic season, more people would be saying the Spurs were the favorites to win the NBA Finals.
Quite the task lies ahead for the Memphis Grizzlies. Not only do most expect a sweep, but most don't see how the Grizzlies can keep any game close, much less game one in San Antonio. "Believe Memphis" will truly be tested as this Grizzlies team goes toe to toe with the dominant Spurs.
How can Memphis compete and perhaps shock the world? Three keys.
Limit Three Point Effectiveness
In the Spurs' 67 wins, they shot an average of 39.6% from beyond the arc. Their acumen from range is well documented, and their shot chart shows tremendous efficiency.
The worst they shoot from three is 35.6%, and they're shooting 40% plus from three different areas, which is stunning. The Grizzlies in wins, by comparison, only shoot above the Spurs' worst percentage in three areas, and do not shoot above 40% from any area in three point land.
The Spurs in losses, however? A different story.
A tremendous drop off in conversions. The Spurs did not attempt more threes than the Grizzlies during the regular season - in fact, both teams were tied in attempts per game at 18.5, good for tying 25th in the NBA. While neither team makes shooting from range a huge priority (the Spurs only attempt .7 more threes in wins than losses, the Grizzlies .9), the huge drop in makes in losses for San Antonio means making 2.4 less three pointers in those 15 lost games.
The Grizzlies have to make the Spurs work from range, with consistently contested shots, by coming over the top of screens, and by aggressively forcing the ball into out of rhythm attempts.
You've Got to Make Your Free Throws (and a Lot of Them)
Memphis will struggle to score against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and a dominant Spurs defense. San Antonio finished the season first in defensive efficiency at 96.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, and 2nd place (the Atlanta Hawks) was a full 2.2 points behind them. There will be limited opportunities to take advantage of the Spurs, but one way could perhaps be at the charity stripe.
When Memphis won this season, they averaged shooting almost 26 free throw attempts, making 21 of them, good for about 81%. When they lost? About two less attempts, and three less makes, to the tune of 75% from the line.
Those three points will make all the difference if the Grizzlies really want to win. Memphis isn't ever going to blow out the Spurs - every point will matter, and they must be efficient from the free throw line in multiple attempts.
Play Loose and Aggressive
The Grizzlies have literally nothing to lose. Very few expect them to win any game in this series, much less game one, and San Antonio will have the energy of their home crowd on their side as well as a ridiculous amount of experience in these situations. Meanwhile, Memphis will be depending on players who have never played in a playoff series like Jarell Martin and Xavier Munford off the bench. The Grizzlies have veteran experience, sure, but those younger players are about to be introduced to playoff basketball for the first time.
They cannot come into this game worried about this fact. They must fly around the court and play solid team offense and defense aggressively. Getting to the basket on offense and fighting over screens and on the glass for rebounds will be huge for the Grizzlies if they hope to keep this game close. Any tentativeness in these areas will lead to the game getting out of hand fast.
The longer you sit and think about this series, the more improbable it feels that the Grizzlies can scare or shake the Spurs. Memphis has talent; Zach Randolph posted yet another solid season this year, Lance Stephenson has shown playoff greatness before, and players like Vince Carter and Matt Barnes have playoff pedigrees of success.
But this isn't 2011. Lance isn't playing alongside the dominant Paul George. If either of these circumstances were reversed, I would feel better about these Grizzlies having a shot. But with no Gasol or Conley, with so much bench inexperience, and with how damn good the Spurs are? It will be challenging to keep this game competitive for a full 48 minutes.
Believe Memphis...it is possible that the Grizzlies compete, but it is very unlikely. San Antonio rolls, even with a better than expected offensive performance from Memphis against the tough Spurs defense.