2013 NBA Playoff Western Conference Finals Odds and Picks: Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs Predictions: When San Antonio and Memphis met in the playoffs in 2011, the Grizzlies made history, becoming just the fourth No. 8 seed to upset in a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs. Fast forward two years and the teams are set for a rematch, but this time around, a spot in the NBA Finals is on the line as the fifth-seeded Grizzlies and second-seeded Spurs are set to meet in the Western Conference finals. While the Spurs are playing for a chance to add a fifth championship to the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich Era, Memphis is seeking to advance to the finals for the first time in franchise history. The series begins Sunday in San Antonio, and after the teams split four games during the regular season with both teams holding serve at home, neither side is going to be overmatched.
Of all the teams in the NBA, Memphis might just have the clearest identity. The Grizzlies pound the ball inside to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on the offensive end in order to control the pace of the game and wear down opponents, and they play stifling defense led by the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Gasol and All-Defensive team selection Tony Allen. The end result is a team that doesn’t score a ton of points but that frustrates and disrupts anything and everything its opponent wants to do on offense. Considering Memphis allowed the fewest points in the NBA during the regular season and has since shutdown the highlight-reel offense of the Los Angeles Clippers and high-powered offense of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder during the postseason, it is safe to say that the Grizzlies have a winning formula on their hands.
While the deep playoff run is nothing new for San Antonio, the team hasn’t been able to get over the hump and return to the NBA Finals since winning the title in 2007 and have lost in the conference finals twice during the stretch, including last year. The core of the Spurs remains Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but role players Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter have added some youth and depth to the veteran-laden bunch. Perhaps more importantly, the Spurs seem to make adjustments and play a variety of styles depending on the opponent. Already in the postseason, San Antonio attacked a weak Los Angeles Lakers’ defense with a potent offense and then switched gears to slow down a hot shooting Golden State Warriors’ offense with a physical defensive effort. Whatever the Spurs lack in speed and athleticism these days, they seem to more than make up for it with guile, savvy and poise.
The Grizzlies Win If:
One of the keys to Memphis’ success this postseason has been the play of point guard Mike Conley Jr., and if the Grizzlies are going to get by San Antonio, they will need him to at least hold his own with Tony Parker, especially on the defense end. Parker gets into the middle of the paint and breaks down defenses as well as any guard in the NBA, but if Conley can keep Parker in front of him, it will allow Memphis’ big men to stay at home and protect the rim and control the glass. On the offensive end, the Grizzlies need to try to take advantage of a relatively thin San Antonio frontcourt. Yes, Duncan is lurking in the post, but with Splitter and Boris Diaw as the other two big men, either Gasol or Randolph should have a favorable matchup every time down the court. If the Grizzlies can do what they have tried to do all year and consistently score in the post while forcing San Antonio to take mainly contested jumpers, they should wear down the Spurs and grind their way to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs Win If:
If Green, Leonard, Ginobili and even Matt Bonner all happen to be hitting from beyond the arc, the Grizzlies really don’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace, but for the most part, the matchup against the Grizzlies puts a lot of pressure on Parker and Duncan. Parker has to outplay Conley and consistently force Memphis’ stingy half-court defense to adjust and loosen up by penetrating into the lane and creating havoc. Meanwhile, Duncan has to control one of the Grizzlies’ two big men on a regular basis and keep Memphis from getting to the offensive glass. If Parker is getting anything he wants on the offensive end and Duncan at least levels the playing field to a degree in the post, the Spurs’ superior group of offensive role players should put more pressure on the Grizzlies’ offense to score than it can handle.
San Antonio was in the same position a year ago, and after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead against Oklahoma City, the Thunder roared back on won the next four games and advance to the NBA Finals. Duncan and company know that the window of opportunity as far as championships are concerned is closing fast, and while they face another young, hungry team in Memphis, the Spurs are as healthy as they have been this late in the playoffs in recent memory. San Antonio also has more offensive weapons to work with than Memphis does, especially on the perimeter. Yes, Memphis was able to get by Oklahoma City team with plenty of firepower in the last round, but thanks to an injury to Russell Westbrook, the Grizzlies were able to focus solely on shutting down Durant down the stretch of close games throughout the series. With Ginobili, Parker and Duncan all able to take and make a variety of shots, Memphis isn’t going to be able to gear its defense towards a single player. Don’t get me wrong. The Grizzlies are going to pound away at the Spurs in the post and make this a lengthy series, but in the end, the battle-tested Spurs will pull out one more tight win and advance.
Prediction: San Antonio Spurs Win in 7 Games
Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs Series Odds
Memphis Grizzlies +120
San Antonio Spurs -140
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