Grizzlies-Spurs Preview

On the best playoff run in their short history, the Memphis

Grizzlies refuse to be satisfied with just reaching their first

Western Conference final.

The San Antonio Spurs? Well, they know time is running out for a

team that has done so very much in the NBA playoffs yet last

celebrated a championship in 2007.

Blowing a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals a year ago

to Oklahoma City has driven the Spurs since training camp, and now

they are back with Game 1 on Sunday against Memphis determined not

to waste another chance.

”We understand as a team that those opportunities are very

rare, and we have another great one right now,” Spurs guard Tony

Parker said Saturday. ”We have home-court advantage against a very

good team, so we have to take full advantage of it.”

The Grizzlies are the former expansion franchise that started

off in Vancouver before moving to Memphis, and they started by

setting the NBA record for postseason futility while losing their

first 12 playoff games.

Coach Lionel Hollins, who won an NBA title in 1977 as a player

with Portland, has his Grizzlies believing they can win one, too.

The No. 5 seed in the West ousted first the Clippers, then the

Thunder by winning eight of its last nine games, including three of

four on the road.

”We’re just worried about going forward,” Grizzlies guard Mike

Conley said. ”We’re happy to be here, but we’re still focused on

bigger things, and we got another tough opponent.”

That would be the Spurs with Tim Duncan, Parker and Manu

Ginobili who swept the Grizzlies out of their first postseason in

2004. When Memphis finally won a postseason series, they beat the

Spurs in six games in 2011, kicking off that series by winning the

first game in San Antonio. Ginobili said the Spurs were not at

their best that series and struggled to stop the Grizzlies’ big men

in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

”We started with the wrong foot, we lost the first one and they

got stronger and confident, and that’s how they beat us,” Ginobili


This conference final pits Southwest Division rivals, with the

Spurs as the dominating big brother with their four NBA

championships and the fifth-best all-time winning percentage in the

league since this franchise moved to the NBA in 1976. No coach and

player have more postseason games than San Antonio coach Gregg

Popovich and Duncan with 200 over 16 seasons.

The Spurs clinched the No. 2 seed in the West winning just two

more games than the Grizzlies.

This should be a defensive showdown between teams built around

big men with Memphis countering Duncan with 7-foot-1 Gasol and

Randolph down low. Memphis held teams to an NBA-low 89.3 points

during the regular season, and the Spurs tied for third in

defensive efficiency. The Grizzlies also were second defending the

3, which could slow down Parker and Ginobili.

”Finding ways to score is going to be very difficult,”

Popovich said. ”Just playing against their defense is enough of a

concern right off the bat.”

Hollins said beauty will be in the eye of the beholder for this


”Some people think it’s ugly, some people think it’s

beautiful,” Hollins said. ”I don’t know. Don’t really care.”

Home court mattered during the regular season as these teams

split with each winning on their own floor.

Remember when Popovich sent Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny

Green home to avoid playing the Heat in Miami on Nov. 29th? Well,

that rest at the end of a six-game road trip cost the Spurs an

unprecedented $250,000 fine. But the move paid off when the Spurs

hosted the Grizzlies on Dec. 1 when Memphis was off to an NBA-best

12-2 start with a 99-95 win by San Antonio.

Three of the teams’ matchups came before Memphis traded away

Rudy Gay on Jan. 30. Memphis won the last game April 1 when Conley

drove the lane for a layup and a 92-90 win on a night where Kawhi

Leonard stayed in San Antonio with a sore left knee, Duncan sat out

and Ginobili was out with a strained hamstring.

”It’s going to be a tough series,” Randolph said. ”Every time

we’ve played them it’s a tough series. They got Ginobili, Parker,

and they got a lot of other guys who do great things for the


San Antonio went 35-6 at home in the regular season, then swept

the Lakers to open the playoffs. The Warriors tested that

home-court advantage forcing the Spurs to go to overtime to pull

out the first game of that series and did win Game 2. The Spurs won

Game 5 at home before closing out the series Thursday night. That

forces the Spurs into a quicker turnaround, even though they do get

to start at home.

”I don’t think you need any more challenge than playing in the

conference finals and having the opportunity to go to the NBA

Finals,” Ginobili said. ”Not that we needed that. It is big


Memphis has been on a bit of a revenge tour this postseason. The

Grizzlies ousted the Clippers in six after losing to Los Angeles in

seven last year, then they made up for their 2011 Western semifinal

loss to Oklahoma City by knocking off the defending Western champs

in five games.

A key in this series will be Parker and Conley. Parker is

averaging 22.4 points a game this postseason, while Conley is

averaging a career-best 17.6 points while handing out 7.6 assists a


”He’s the real key to their basketball team,” Popovich said.

”Everybody just thinks about Zach and Marc, who are sufficiently

wonderful as players. But Conley is very, very important to that


They got an extra day of rest after Wednesday night’s 88-84 win

over the Thunder. Now they have geared up again focusing on

defense, rebounding and trying to outscore an opponent in the

paint, which already has worked so well this postseason.

”It’s the same recipe,” Gasol said. ”It’s just a little


AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in San Antonio contributed to this


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