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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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The Grizzlies look to win their fourth straight on Saturday night in Memphis.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: San Antonio Spurs (52-15, 27-8 away) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (39-30, 20-14 home)

WHERE: FedExForum, Memphis, TN

WHEN: 8:00 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

Injury Report:

MEMPHIS – Chandler Parsons (out indefinitely: knee)

SAN ANTONIO – Tony Parker (questionable: back), Dajounte Murray (day-to-day: groin)

PROBABLY STARTERS:

MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

SAN ANTONIO: Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dewayne Dedmon


The San Antonio Spurs are in town. That’s great, we are happy to have them. But the problem is, they are really, really good at basketball. As a Memphis fan, I dread the matchups we have with the Spurs. They are frustratingly good, no matter who is on the floor for their team. Memphis is 1-0 against the Spurs this year, so that’s good news. The bad news is that the Grizz face the Spurs three times in seventeen days coming up.

The Grizzlies have struggled mightily in the month of March, but have recently hit their stride with three wins in a row. Hopefully the team can make up ground lost from the recent five game losing streak. This game against the Spurs will be a good test in seeing how the Grizz can play against an elite team on both ends of the floor.

Tony Parker probably won’t play, since there is really no reason for him to rush back from injury. Popovich (the Spurs coach, his first name is Gregg for those who are wondering) is notorious for resting players down the stretch towards the playoffs, and since the Spurs have already locked in a playoff berth, it seems sensible to keep Parker out of uniform. We also could find out a few hours before the game that Popovich decided to rest all his players and instead send the D-Leaguers (G-Leaguers?) out against the Grizz.

Overall, the Grizzlies need to win this game. The last three wins have been against no-so-great teams and haven’t proven much. The offense does seem to be clicking behind a resurgent defensive intensity though, so that is a step back in the right direction. This win could prove that the team is in fact getting back into playoff form and can make a strong push at the fifth (dare I say fourth?) seed. The Grizz are currently seventh, but just one game out of the fifth seed.

Here are a few keys that the Grizz will need to win their fourth straight:

Bench Play

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

I would usually just highlight that the bench would need to score, but they need to play well on both ends of the floor against the Spurs. San Antonio has one of the best benches in the NBA, so keeping them off the scoreboard will be tough. With Vince Carter in the starting lineup now, that already takes a scoring threat away from the Grizzlies reserves, forcing more pressure on Zach Randolph. Shooters, aka Troy Daniels and James Ennis III, will need to play their part offensively and pick up some slack on the defensive end.

Both benches will play a huge role in this game, there’s a big chance that the Spurs bench gets more minutes than usual, which could play into the Grizz’s favor. I’m not asking the Memphis bench to carry the full weight for the game, but to maintain consistent play while giving the starters rest.

Marc Gasol’s All Around Dominance

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard, Marc had a triple double in the last game, a Thursday night win against the Hawks on the road. He played well in every area of basketball, and the Grizz need more of that. He is the best center in the league (go ahead, try to argue that), and proving that against the league’s best teams is important for the Grizz to move in the right direction.

He should be able to have his way against the Spurs. Dwayne Dedmon is the only real chance they have at being physical with Marc and Dedmon won’t be able to hold him. LaMarcus Aldridge is more of a finesse big, not known for overpowering play physically on either end of the floor. Marc Gasol should show out tonight (even against his older, slower brother).

Team Defense

It’s amazing what holding a team under 100 points will do for you. That’s exactly what the Grizz have done the past three games, all resulting in wins. The Grizzlies are at their best when the defensive is sound as a team with Gasol and Tony Allen anchoring on all positions. The Spurs move the ball better than anyone in the league, so asking a defense to prepare for that is just silly. But team defense is the only hope the Grizzlies have in keeping the Spurs from blowing this game wide open.

There isn’t one threat that has to be stopped- perhaps you could argue that it could be Kawhi Leonard, except that Leonard isn’t the type of player the go off for 40 points on any given night. He will get his points and rebounds, but its preventing the flashy, yet fundamental ball movement that the Grizz have to focus on.

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