No one in Memphis has hit the panic button over the Grizzlies 105-83 loss to San Antonio in game one of the Western Conference Finals and there’s a good reason for that. In round one, the Grizzlies dropped games one and two to the Los Angeles Clippers and then won four straight to advance. In round two, Memphis again opened with a loss in round one to Oklahoma City but ran off four straight again to advance to this point in the season.
While it’s good that this team has been there before, it could also be some dangerous territory. The Spurs are certainly not the Clippers and falling behind two games to none to them is a far different scenario than it was the Clippers. Therefore, it is expected that the Grizzlies will come out with a significantly different level of energy tonight in the Alamodome.
Earlier this week, I predicted that the moment for this Memphis team was here and that they would win this series in six games. I’m still sticking to that after just one game, but there are serious concerns if I’m Head Coach Lionel Hollins.
First, Tony Parker won the point guard battle over Mike Conley. The wily vet Parker finished with 20 points and nine assists while Conley scored 14 points with eight assists. It wasn’t a terrible performance by Conley, but with other guys not on their games, his became magnified. Another area I didn’t see an issue with was Zach Randolph. He was about as bad as bad can get in scoring just two points on one of eight shooting. I really felt like he and Marc Gasol could dominate the paint by neutralizing Tim Duncan even a bit, but it wasn’t to be.
The Spurs were successful in running three different guys including Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw at Randolph who clearly struggled to find position and comfort in the paint. Hollins will need to adjust to that as will of course Randolph.
Offensively, the Spurs have to be one of the NBA’s best-ever teams in terms of moving the basketball. They are currently assisting on 73% of their made baskets which is just incredible when you really think about it. To reach that percentage one of two things, or both has to be happening. You have to be finding guys for extremely high percentage shots which means within about 6 to 8′ of the bucket and/or you just have guys that can flat-out nail shots.
San Antonio was over 50% shooting from the field and was almost at 50% shooting from beyond the three-point arc. They were almost 10 percentage points better than Memphis in each of those categories. Amazingly, the Griz shot 20 free throws to just 14 for the Spurs which sends the message that the refs were letting them play but also that Memphis needs to get to and hit more foul shots.
So how do the Grizzlies bounce back? Memphis enters the game as five-point underdogs in Riverwalk City and to me that is telling. Normally the five-point spread says odds-makers have more confidence in the favorite than they do the underdog which is why you often see teams listed at +4.5.
I’m going to go ahead and stick with my original thought that the Grizzlies will win this in six games and they’ll bounce back tonight with a big win. To do that, they obviously need to get off to a better start and much of that will center around how Zach Randolph gets off as well. I believe Randolph will have a much better game, but it won’t matter if the defense can’t slow down Tony Parker which I believe they will tonight.