Posted Apr 23 2011 9:15AM
MEMPHIS -- This time it's different.
When the FedEx Forum has been packed to capacity and the buzz of excitement has rattled off the rafters in the past, the Grizzlies home crowds might actually have been coming to get a peek at the other teams.
When the Grizzlies were in the playoffs three straight years from 2004 to 2006, the home crowds were happy but apprehensive.
Now the expectation is that the walls will be shaking and the thunder that reverberates across the court for Game 3 against the Spurs will be filled with belief.
This is, after all, the biggest game in Grizzlies history.
"I can't speak for the entire life of the franchise personally, but I think it is," said general manager Chris Wallace. "I know this year when Miami came in for its one and only time, and when the Lakers came that was a big deal. But this is a big deal because they're coming to see us and there's none of that wondering about whether we're worthy."
Not after the Grizzlies grabbed Game 1 of the series in San Antonio on Shane Battier's clutch 3-pointer and not after the way the Grizzlies went toe-to-toe and bruise-for-bruise with their physical style of play against the Spurs.
"The place will be alive, I'm sure," Battier said. "The crowd will most definitely be jacked up because I think they've seen that we can not only be competitive, but have proven we can win."
In fact, the challenge for the Grizzlies might be to not rely too much on getting an emotional lift from the home throng.
"I think that's fair," Battier said. "We can't take for granted that just because we're home, that will be enough to win the game. The Spurs are one of the best teams in the league on the road. They can win anywhere in the league. They've proven it over the years. We need a great effort, a consistent effort, a disciplined and focused effort to win this game."
Coach Lionel Hollins, always the pragmatist, just shrugged.
"When it comes to it, it's all just basketball," he said. "We can't count on the crowd to do anything for us or to us. It's about just going out and playing and taking care of the important things."
Here a handful of those things for Game 3:
Be big -- Despite all of the subplots, the series will ultimately come down to which team can get its largest creatures to use their size and strength around the basket. When Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol rumbled to 49 points and 23 rebounds in the opener, the Spurs were unable to cope. When the Spurs' Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess came out more aggressively and checked Z-Bo and Gasol earlier in each offensive possession of Game 2, the Grizzlies wound up settling for a perimeter game of jump shots that often quickened the pace and made them less aggressive.
"You have to play both sides of the floor against this team." Battier said. "They're really good if you try to lock in on the strong side. They're too disciplined a club. You can hurt them if you move the ball from side to side and make a bunch of quick hitting plays, quick hitting pick and rolls and then go toward the post."
Paws on the ball -- The new edition Spurs are the ones who want to push the tempo and run in transition at every opportunity. Since they no longer run everything through Duncan in the low post, they like to get Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker into the open court, running for layups or setting up open early 3-pointers in transition. The Grizzlies gave up 23.5 points off turnovers in first two games.
"When you're playing a team as good as the Spurs, as experienced as the Spurs, you can't make mistakes and help them out," Hollins said. "I told our players that they ought to be mad about letting that last game get away. We have to cut down on the mistakes."
Don't take the bait -- The Spurs were the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA over the regular season and there is nothing they'd like more than to get the Grizzlies into a shootout from behind the arc. Memphis was sucked into just that kind of duel in Game 2.
"We're not a team that looks to go out there every night and tries to put up 15 or 20 shots from behind the 3-point line," said Mike Conley. "It's easy to fall into the trap and take the first shot you get. But that's not our team. It's their game. We have to do what has worked for us all season. We've got to run our pick and roll and get the ball down into the low post to Zach and Marc."
A foul mood -- It's not the overall number, a 79-53 advantage for San Antonio in free throws, that should have the Grizzlies concerned. It's the fact that their guards -- Parker, George Hill and Ginobili -- are getting the lion's share of them by attacking the basket.
"That's their style," Battier said. "None of those guys are the least bit afraid to go at the rim and stick their nose in there. They like the contact. They try to create it most of the time. From our standpoint, yes, we can try to be a little more careful about the number of fouls. But you also have to try to make them pay for their aggressiveness. You take what you call a playoff foul. You don't make and reach and tap. You make them feel it and pay the price. Nothing dirty or illegal. Kinda what Indiana did to Derrick Rose in their Game 3. Let him know you're there."
Spread the Mayo -- When O.J. Mayo came off the bench for 13 points -- including 3-for-4 from behind the arc -- the Grizzlies got a big boost to win the opener. When Mayo shot just 2-for-11 and scored five points in Game 2, the Spurs were able to pay extra double-team attention to Randolph and Gasol in the post.
"I know that I've got to be a positive factor for us," Mayo said. "I think I got a little outside of myself and maybe tried to rush and force some things in the last game. What I've got to do is keep my composure, stay patient, keep the ball moving and get my shots out of our offensive sets."
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