May 17 2013 9:06AM

2013 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Preview

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San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

These are not your Thunder young guns, Showtime Lakers or Lob City Clippers, but the Western Conference Finals pairing between the Spurs and Grizzlies is a fitting finale for the Best-in-West portion of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. On one side, you have the Spurs' Big 3, led by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, along with Coach Gregg Popovich, who collectively have earned 14 NBA championship rings between them on the Spurs' four title teams (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007). On the flip side, you have the Grizzlies Core Four of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Mike Conley, who--as a starting nucleus--took out many of these same Spurs in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, back when eighth-seeded Memphis toppled No. 1 seed San Antonio. This game is not only a nice sequel to that great matchup from two years ago, but it provides an entryway to NBA Finals status for two small-market, big-time defensive clubs who traditionally fly under the radar. The Spurs should look to push the pace in this series, but the grit-and-grind Grizz not only have the NBA's No. 2 D along with three All-Defense players (Allen, Conley and Defensive Player of the Year Gasol), but they also muck up the game more than anyone else, slowing the pace down to 91.1 possessions per game (second slowest in the league). This style of play truly clashes with the Spurs' offensive philosophy--San Antonio ranks fifth in offensive efficiency and sixth in pace (96.4 possessions per game)--but it provides the very storyline that could define the series. Can the Grizzlies slow down the Spurs' vaunted multiple-screen motion offense? If so, can poor-shooting Memphis (22nd in true shooting percentage; 18th in offensive efficiency) score enough points to win? The Grizzlies have met the challenge against the Clippers' ninth-rated defense and the Thunder's third-rated defense (tied with Spurs), with Coach Lionel Hollins' squad averaging 104.4 points per 100 possessions in the postseason to rank fifth among playoff teams. The aforementioned Memphis core four is ballin' like All-Stars, with each averaging 19-plus Player Efficiency Ratings. The Spurs, meanwhile, can match that feat as well, with Parker, Ginobili, Duncan and 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard all posting playoff PERs ranging from 19 to 23. So can San Antonio exact revenge? First of all, the 2013 Spurs are much better than the 2011 Spurs because Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw give Duncan more frontline strength and depth to counter Memphis All-Star-caliber bigs, while Danny Green adds three-point shooting moxie that was missing from that one-and-done team. If Memphis wants to pull off another lower-seed upset, it will have to hope fifth starter Tayshaun Prince and the Memphis bench continue to provide the grit-and-grind defensive shine they have this entire postseason. It looks like the Spurs have a big bench advantage, so all eyes will be on Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless and Darrell Arthur, who are the key subs in the Grizzlies' eight-deep lineup. Don't forget, it was Arthur himself along with 2011 Memphis alums Shane Battier, Greivis Vasquez and O.J. Mayo who looked outmatched two years ago, yet outplayed San Antonio's subs when it mattered. If the Grizz are going to overtake the Spurs once again, Arthur will need help from his new teammates on the sidelines. If not, Manu and Company will consistently stretch Spurs' leads at the quarter breaks, as they did against both the Lakers and the Warriors in the first and second rounds.


C Tim Duncan +6.65 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 34.4 mpg, 20.7 PER, +22

PF Tiago Splitter +2.78 RSPM; Playoffs: 8 g, 21.9 mpg, 13.9 PER, +7

SF Kawhi Leonard +2.24 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 37.7 mpg, 18.5 PER, +75

SG Danny Green +0.64 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 30.7 mpg, 14.9 PER, -18

PG Tony Parker +2.23 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 36.0 mpg, 23.4 PER, +50

SG Manu Ginobili +2.80 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 25.6 mpg, 20.4 PER, +103

C Boris Diaw -1.00 RSPM; Playoffs: 6 g, 17.8 mpg, 10.8 PER, +33

SG Gary Neal -3.80 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 16.9 mpg, 8.2 PER, +56

PF Matt Bonner -2.03 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 15.9 mpg, 13.2 PER, +56

PG Cory Joseph -1.42 RSPM; Playoffs: 10 g, 11.2 mpg, 17.3 PER, +32


C Marc Gasol +3.76 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 40.3 mpg, 21.2 PER, +72

PF Zach Randolph +0.57 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 36.4 mpg, 21.2 PER, +95

SF Tayshaun Prince -2.11 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 33.6 mpg, 7.6 PER, +37

SG Tony Allen -0.47 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 28.8 mpg, 18.8 PER, +58

PG Mike Conley +2.49 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 38.5 mpg, 20.7 PER, +74

SG Quincy Pondexter -2.50 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 20.7 mpg, 12.0 PER, +17

PG Jerryd Bayless -2.00 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 19.1 mpg, 11.0 PER, -11

PF Darrell Arthur -3.89 RSPM; Playoffs: 11 g, 11.7 mpg, 10.3 PER, -35

PG Keyon Dooling Playoffs: 10 g, 8.5 mpg, 3.5 PER, -13

C Ed Davis +1.66 RSPM; Playoffs: 6 g, 5.3 mpg, 5.8 PER, -21


SOURCES: Regularized Statistical Plus Minus stats come from David Williams' You Have No Game website; Games, Minutes Per Game, Player Efficiency Rating and Plus-Minus numbers in the Playoffs come from Basketball-Reference.