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2017 NBA Playoffs: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Game Five preview

Grizzlies look to steal one on the road and take a 3-2 lead

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

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (2-2, 0-2 road) vs. San Antonio Spurs (2-2, 2-0 home)

WHERE: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

WHEN: 8:00 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBATV (National), Fox Sports Southeast (Local)/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

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


Well, the Grizzlies have tied it up at 2-2.

This is just a statement of fact, but also completely bewildering considering the circumstances. The Spurs are a 61-win 2 seed, which hasn’t happened in 10 years since the 06-07 Suns. They have a true MVP candidate superstar. The Memphis Grizzlies are sans their premier defensive stopper in Tony Allen and max-player Chandler Parsons. This series should not be 2-2.

And yet, here we are. The Grizzlies haven’t lucked into wins either. They’ve played well at home. Game 4 had a ton of turnovers and Kawhi went Super Saiyan in the 4th quarter and OT. The Grizzlies could have easily lost this game to Pop and the Spurs. But David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won the “line of scrimmage” and Mike Conley was transcendent with his floaters that helped win the game.

Kawhi hit shot after shot, but so did Marc and Mike.

Game 5 won’t be as entertaining as Game 4; that’s a high bar to clear. But the Grizzlies still need to steal a win on the road to win this series. Winning the now necessary Game 6 isn’t a given just because it’s at home, either. So Game 5 is a must-win.

Memphis had the emotional advantage on Saturday night. They had the home crowd as raucous as can be, but that won’t be the case Tuesday night. Game 5 is in San Antonio and Gregg Popovich losing 3 playoff games in a row to a less-talented team only happens to him in fever dreams.

In order to send Popovich into a real-life fever dream, this is what the Grizzlies need to have happen on Tuesday.

Continuing Andrew Harrison’s Success

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

Andrew Harrison has been much maligned in his rookie season. Fans decry his abilities, not because he lacks them, but because they wish he were someone else. Mario Chalmers pre-Achilles injury looked to be one of Memphis’ most capable backup point guards in quite a while. The team drafted Wade Baldwin in the 1st round of the 2016 draft to fill the role, but he’s still too raw of a player.

Andrew Harrison was never supposed to be the backup point guard, until he was. The team whiffed on (or didn’t try to acquire) Louis Williams and Brandon Jennings at the trade deadline/buyout window. Andrew Harrison was now the best we were going to do, and rocky as he’s been this season, he put together a great game on Saturday night.

He was guarding Patty Mills the length of the floor quite literally. Not only was he picking Mills up on every inbound and pestering him, but he had a fantastic chase-down block in the 4th quarter. His defense was fantastic all game. Here’s Harrison double teaming LaMarcus Aldridge, ripping the ball from him, and going coast-to-coast, scoring a layup and drawing the foul, a fantastic play that is not one an ordinary rookie completes in the playoffs.

It was not a perfect night for Harrison, he had some ugly defensive lapses. Mental errors are the most excusable yet the most dangerous against a well-disciplined team like the Spurs. If Harrison can tighten up his defensive rotations and keep Tony Parker from continuing his renaissance, the Grizzlies will have a good chance in Game 5.

Solving the Kawhi Problem

Kawhi can’t be THIS good for THIS long, can he? On Saturday night he couldn’t have played better in the 4th quarter or overtime. After two incredible steals in the 4th, he continued his excellence on the offensive end too. Kawhi hit big shot after big shot so much that his airball at the regulation buzzer was the most surprising part of the night.

Kawhi is a bonafide superstar. It doesn’t matter if even die-hard NBA fans don’t know what his voice sounds like, his talent and performance warrant the label. At first, David Fizdale tried Wayne Selden on him, considering he did reasonably well in the regular season against Leonard when he had the chance. In Game 3, Fizdale inserted James Ennis into the lineup in an effort to try something to stop Kawhi.

It worked a lot better in Game 3 than it did in Game 4.

Kawhi was hitting shots despite being contested, despite being fouled, and in the highest pressure situations of the game. Sometimes, there’s no answer for that. But the Grizzlies only won by 2 at the buzzer, they’ll need to find an answer if they want a better chance to win.

Giving Kawhi some space on the ball might be the best way to go about it. He’s a deadly efficient shooter, so it’s not something they should do for the entire 48, but considering he’s 40-40 from the free throw line (what!), it would be a good idea to cut down on his free throw attempts from driving.

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

Prediction

The Grizzlies have proven themselves capable of doing more than just hanging with the Spurs in game. They can actually win. The Spurs haven’t lost at home this series, or throughout the regular season against the Grizzlies. Memphis will have the momentum on their side, but the Spurs still have home-court advantage throughout the series and tonight.

The Grizzlies will be ready to play, but expect Popovich to counteract that with some adjustments. Memphis will keep it close, but I think the Spurs pull it out.

111 Spurs, 104 Grizzlies

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