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By Trenton Jocz, Sports Radio KJR
In the NBA, a series is similar to the battle of field position in football. The score might be close, but sometimes one team is getting a first down or two on every series and their lack of scoring is more due to correctable errors than what the defense is doing while the other team just looks like its holding on. Conversely, one team might be up by a couple scores, but that gap may be more due to one 50/50 play here or there.
This is how the Spurs-Grizzlies series feels at this point. San Antonio might be up 2-0 at the moment, but at some point in the second half, the tenor of this series changed. Gone was the free-flowing, fluid motion style of the Spurs, replaced by the patented grit-and-grind for which these Grizzlies have made themselves known. Tim Duncan may have turned back the clock in overtime, rescuing the Spurs from a Game 2 that showed even veteran teams blow leads sometimes, but it was clear that things were different.
As the series shifts to the Grindhouse, it feels like a mirror image of last year’s Western Conference Finals where through nearly two games Oklahoma City looked in over their heads and the Spurs executed a symphony to near perfection. In the latter part of Game 2 however, the Thunder seemed to put things together and they went on to use their length and athleticism to stymie San Antonio and sweep the next four games to get to the Finals.
Memphis under Lionel Hollins in this year’s playoffs has used Game 1 in a series almost as an experiment, seeing what will work and what won’t. It looks as if it just took him longer to find the right combinations for this series. Tayshaun Prince and, to a certain extent, Tony Allen were finally acquainted with the bench for the proper amount of time, as Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter need their minutes in order to space the floor with their perimeter shooting, and in the case of Bayless, put another shot creator on the floor. That spacing prevents the Spurs from swarming Zach Randolph in the post as easily as they could before and it also gives Mike Conley more room to operate and additional options out of the pick and roll.
Another interesting development out of Game 2 was how much Tony Parker faded down the stretch as Memphis made their comeback. If the Spurs find a way to steal one on the road, they’ll have a chance to close out at home in Game 5 and make these concerns moot, but the chances of Memphis being able to wear down Parker and Duncan with their physicality only increase the longer this series lasts.
Even though the series doesn’t resume until Saturday, expect Game 3 to be the most intense game of the playoffs yet as the Grizzlies fight for their playoff lives.