Let’s face it; if the Grizzlies are going to make it out of the Western Conference, they’re probably going to have to get past the Spurs. The Spurs are likely going to the take the top spot in the West (though the Thunder are lingering), which means if the Grizzlies advance past the first round, they’d likely be facing a Spurs matchup in round 2.
Tonight’s game will give us a nice look at how the team’s match up very late in the regular season. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they likely caught the Spurs at a very bad time. Last night, they lost a close game to the Heat team that rested both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh managed to guide the Heat to victory. After a humiliating loss like that, the Spurs are going to be fired up tonight, and they will likely give the Grizzlies everything they have.
There will plenty of interesting position battles tonight, especially the duel between Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol. After it was starting to look like Duncan’s prime was over, he’s had his best season in years, continuing to display the efficiency, and dominance in the post that made him one of the best players in the NBA for so many years. He’ll have his handful tonight, though, as he’ll be going against the best defensive big man in the league. Gasol’s performances over the Rockets and Timberwolves this weekend show that he has recovered from his injury, and is back to his old dynamic self, meaning things certainly won’t be easy for the Big Fundamental tonight.
Meanwhile, we get a great point guard duel between Tony Parker and Mike Conley. Before Parker’s injury last month, it had often been suggested that Parker should be in the MVP race. Considering how much LeBron James towers over the competition, that felt like a bit of a stretch. Still, Parker is having a career year, and is firmly established as one of the best point guards in the game. If Conley and Tony Allen can prevent him from getting the easy layups that often define his game, the Grizzlies chances will improve greatly. When Parker is on his game, it’s striking how effective he can be, and how easy he makes everything look. With Parker supplanting Duncan as the Spurs leader, shutting him down is the biggest key to victory.
As with many games, the Grizzlies will need to disrupt the Spurs style of play. This is a team that thrives on its efficient offense, and excellent three-point shooting. the Grizzlies will need to disrupt that tonight. They need to prevent the Spurs from getting open looks from downtown, and play tight perimeter D on Parker. Additionally, Gasol and Z-Bo will need to disrupt Duncan in the post. This will be a battle of an extremely well-coached offense, versus quite possibly the toughest defense in the league. If Tony and Marc are their usual excellent selves on the defensive end, the Grizzlies have a very good shot of emerging victorious.