Grizzlies face Spurs tonight
The Memphis Grizzlies are set to host their first playoff game since 2006, and FedExForum will be rocking for Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series between the Grizzlies and Spurs. However, making sure that the capacity crowd gets home happy with the first NBA Playoff win on Memphis soil will be no small task for the Grizzlies.
After a strong showing in San Antonio, the Grizzlies are in great position to take control of the best-of-seven series with the Spurs, and doing so would be a historical feat. In NBA Playoff history, only one eight-seed (2007 Golden State Warriors) has gone on to win a best-of-seven series vs. the top team in the conference. Just as the Warriors did in their series win over the Mavericks, Memphis will need to feed off of the crowd energy and play with their usual amount of heart, grit and grind.
Mike Conley vs. Tony Parker
Reputations are built in the postseason, and though he’s new to playoff basketball, Mike Conley is already making it clear that he’s ready to rise to the occasion. In his playoff debut in Game 1, Conley set the franchise playoff record for assists with 10, capped by a crisp bounce pass on Shane Battier’s game-winning three-pointer. With two rookies backing him up, the 23-year-old has been called upon to be a veteran leader in the playoffs, and he’s exceeded expectations thus far. It won’t get any easier as the series shifts to Memphis, though. Conley’s counterpart Tony Parker has made a career out of postseason excellence and will continue to heat up as the series progresses. Slowing Parker down on the offensive end remains a top priority for the Grizzlies, and they’ll rely on Conley to do so for 40-plus minutes again tonight.
Tony Allen vs. Manu Ginobili
The health of Manu Ginobili has been one of the biggest storylines of the series thus far, but when the Argentine is healthy—lookout. Ginobili’s ability to close games down the stretch was sorely missed in Game 1, when the Spurs allowed a 7-0 Grizzlies rally to close the game. San Antonio had some open looks at the end of Game 1, but without Ginobili in the lineup, the Spurs were unable to seal the deal. A matchup with Grizz energizer Tony Allen is not exactly what the doctor ordered for Ginobili, though. Allen, who finished fourth in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting, has been the heart and soul of the Grizzlies throughout the team’s march to the playoffs. His on-the-ball defense is some of the best in the game, and his penchant for wreaking havoc and creating turnovers is unmatched. If there’s anyone who can hinder an offensive juggernaut like Ginobili, it’s TA.
Sam Young vs. Richard Jefferson
The small forward slot will be the wildcard all series. Richard Jefferson, in his second year in San Antonio, has done a better job of playing within the Spurs system this season, while Sam Young has improved from his rookie campaign in 2009-10. With so many other options on the floor, neither perimeter player is counted on to shoulder the load for their respective teams, but both are very capable of getting hot. The one advantage Jefferson has is the same as most of his Spurs teammates: experience. Jefferson was a mainstay on the New Jersey Nets teams that contended for NBA championships early in the decade, and his familiarity with the tempo of postseason basketball could give him the leg-up.
Zach Randolph vs. Tim Duncan
All it took was a little bit of national exposure on the big stage for Zach Randolph to re-introduce himself to the basketball world. For those who have been ignoring Z-Bo’s herculean efforts in Memphis over the past two seasons, the damage he inflicted on the Spurs’ big men in San Antonio caught the nation’s attention once and for all. While Tim Duncan showed why he’s one of the best centers to ever play the game, Randolph made it clear that he’s not as far behind as some thought with another dominating offensive performance in Game 1. In his first playoff action since 2003, Randolph tallied game highs in points (25) and rebounds (14) as he Marc Gasol bullied the Spurs frontcourt en route to the first playoff victory in franchise history. Randolph will have to be at his best throughout the series, particularly against Duncan, who possesses a great basketball I.Q. and will be ready to adjust to Z-Bo’s rag-tag style as the Spurs visit FedExForum.
Marc Gasol vs. Antonio McDyess
Perhaps nobody had a bigger impact on Memphis’ Game 1 win over the Spurs than Marc Gasol, who tallied 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds and two blocks. What’s more, Gasol rendered Antonio McDyess virtually obsolete on the offensive end, giving the Grizzlies a huge advantage at the center position. With a limited supply of big bodies to hang with Gasol, the Spurs will need the combination of McDyess, Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair to keep an eye on Gasol, all while containing Zach Randolph. Needless to say, Memphis will once again rely on points in the paint as the Grizzlies feed their big men in hopes of wearing down the aging Spurs.