WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN (National), Fox Sports Southeast (Local)/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Tony Allen (Out, calf), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee)
SAN ANTONIO- NONE
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS-
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Vince Carter, James Ennis III, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
SAN ANTONIO- Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dewayne Dedmon
It’s a brave new world for the Memphis Grizzlies.
They hadn’t beaten the San Antonio Spurs in a playoff game in six seasons heading into Game Three. And yet here we are, with Memphis sitting as pretty as can be, considering they are still down 2-1 in the series. The Grizzlies found a way to rally behind their head coach and their city, using the energy of the FedExForum to get to a higher level of play en route to knocking off San Antonio.
Their best three players, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph, had 66 points combined. They held the Spurs under 100 points. They gritted and grinded and got contributions from role players like JaMychal Green, Wayne Selden Jr., and James Ennis III. They played about as well as they could hope to.
Now the question is, can they do it again?
Can they replicate that Herculean effort against the league’s best defense? Will David Fizdale be ready for the counter-punch of one of the greatest coaches of all time, Gregg Popovich? How will Kawhi Leonard’s robot psyche respond following an imperfect, human error-filled game for himself and his team?
Another game, another time for desperation. Will Memphis head back to Texas looking for a series lead, or to save their season?
Keys to tonight’s game-
Keep the Spurs Elder Statesmen at Bay
Manu Ginobili has not scored a point in three postseason games so far for the Spurs.
Let that sink in.
Manu Ginobili, a future Hall of Famer, one of the greatest sixth men of all time, is nearing the end of his career and was a Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision in the second half of Game Three.
Manu is just one example. For the first time in the series, Mike Conley was the vastly superior player to Tony Parker that we all know him to be. Parker was held scoreless as well in Memphis in Game Three, after scoring 33 combined points in the first two games of the series.
This is Kawhi’s team now. LaMarcus Aldridge is a willing and able 2nd best player. Pau Gasol anchors the second unit well for the Spurs. For San Antonio to be dominant, they need Parker and Ginobili to produce. It’s unlikely they both are held scoreless again, but if the Grizzlies can limit their production, they have a real shot to win Game Four.
Bully Ball 2.0
Zach Randolph turned back the clock to his 2011 “Super Z-Bo” self on Thursday night. It was a beautiful sight, especially if this is indeed the last postseason the upcoming free agent Randolph plays in as a member of the Grizzlies. But Gregg Popovich appears to pride himself on ensuring that Z-Bo cannot play that way very often against the Spurs, and you can bet one of Pop’s adjustments will be to double down hard on Zach in the post.
Which is why Fizdale and Randolph need to be ready to adjust and adapt themselves. Look for more sets with Zach coming off screens on the block, Zach in the pick and roll, and Zach isos on the elbow or low post with four shooters around him creating space. Just as throwing different defenders at a player can impact a player, different means to get to the same end offensively can frustrate defensive schemes.
Another “Big Three” performance is required to win. The Grizzlies need Zach Randolph to ball.
This game is the definition of head vs. heart.
On one hand, the Grizzlies played a near-perfect game in Game Three. It is unlikely that Memphis will be able to do that again, and it is unlikely that Parker and Ginobili play so poorly again. Popovich and the Spurs will be looking to right the ship- their full focus and effort will be invested in winning this game so they can clinch at home on Tuesday night in San Antonio. You will likely get the best of the Spurs machine tonight.
On the other hand, there is the possibility that the Grizzlies have cracked the code. The Spurs are not what they once were- they can be had, if you execute your game plan and force them out of their defensive comfort zone and scheme. The Memphis crowd will surely be up for this contest as they were for Game Three- the team feeds off their city unlike just about any other group in sports.
Unfortunately, it won’t be enough. The Grizzlies Big Three will misstep once or twice too often, and the Spurs will win a squeaker to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
San Antonio 99, Memphis 96