This playoff run for the Memphis Grizzlies has looked an awful lot like their first run in 2011. Everyone remembers the rare first round upset when, as an 8 seed they upset the top seeded San Antonio Spurs to win the franchise’s first playoff game and series.
In the next round, the Grizzlies ran into a young and hungry Oklahoma City Thunder team armed with Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and home-court advantage and eventually lost in 7 hard-fought games.
As you may have heard, the Grizzlies’ chance for a first-ever Western Conference championship begins on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. It will take place in San Antonio, where the Grizzlies stole game 1 in 2011.
The two teams have a lot of the same players involved with the exception of a few peripheral pieces. The Grizzlies have the same four man core that they had in 2011, with Tayshaun Prince playing the role of Shane Battier in the 2013 edition.
The Spurs traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard at the 2011 NBA Draft and Leonard has become an outstanding player in his second pro season. He really could be the difference in the Spurs winning the series or losing the series. Danny Green is also a Spur now and he wasn’t on the team in 2011 and while he isn’t as complete a player as Leonard, he’s become a dead-eye shooter from the corner and especially on three-pointers.
For the Grizzlies, the song will remain the same in that they’ll go as far as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can take them on offense and how well they play defensively against one of the league’s best offensive teams.
The biggest issue will be how the Grizzlies prepare for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Tony Allen is an awesome defensive talent, but he can only guard one guy at a time. Whoever he doesn’t guard will be working on Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless or Quincy Pondexter. Then after them, the Grizzlies have to account for whoever is playing out of the Kawhi Leonard/Danny Green combination. Then you have Tim Duncan as well.
None of those guys are as good as Kevin Durant mind you, but the Spurs will have at least three guys on the court that can score at any time and maybe even four. The Thunder weren’t able to do that because Russell Westbrook is responsible for creating so many easy shots and it’s easier to guard one excellent scorer than it is to shut down an entire team.
So what happens? This could be the best series of the playoffs so far, in my opinion. Most of the series haven’t been that great, aside from a few competitive moments. The Heat probably won’t be seriously tested until the NBA Finals as well.
I can easily see this series going 7 games, with a few overtime games sprinkled in.
But who wins?
It’s tough to put too much stock into the 2011 series when both teams are so different. The Grizzlies may be about the same, where the Spurs are probably a little better. It’s tough to see the Grizzlies losing a home game, so can they steal one on the road? I’m not sure.
At the same time, the Spurs got almost as lucky with their draw as anyone right? They got a Kobe-less Lakers sqaud that’s been in disarray all year and then a Warriors squad that wasn’t quite ready for the big time yet and the Spurs had home court value to boot.
The Grizzlies lucked out by catching Oklahoma City without Russell Westbrook, but the Clippers were at full strength despite falling apart in the last four games. I’m not totally sure what happened there, but it did.
I should just make this prediction already.
Grizzlies in 6.
I think the Grizzlies have the best home-court advantage left in the playoffs. I don’t think the Spurs worry whether they’re at home or not, but I think the Grizzlies do. They feel a certain amount of pride about defending their floor.
So that means the Grizzlies have to steal game 1, 2 or 5 and I can see it happening. The Grizzlies’ team defense will keep them in every game, but their offense will do the same and never allow them to get too far ahead. Every game will go late into the 4th quarter and the team that executes best will win the game.
I”m betting that the Grizzlies hold serve at home and steal a road game. I hope I’m right.