MEMPHIS, Tenn. – 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 today 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 Spurs clinched the No. 2 seed in the West by winning just two more games than the Grizzlies.
This should be a defensive showdown between teams built around big men with Memphis countering San Antonio’s Tim Duncan with 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol and Zach 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 three, which could slow down Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Finding ways to score is going to be very difficult, San Antonio coach Gregg 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 series.
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.
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 team.
A key in this series will be Parker and Grizzlies guard Mike 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 game.
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 group.
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 tougher.