NBA playoffs: Grizzlies look to claw past Spurs to reach Round 2
NBA playoffs: The Memphis Grizzlies visit the San Antonio Spurs tonight for Game 5 of their best-of-seven NBA Western Conference playoff series.
San Antonio is a veteran squad, with their starting five combining for 52 years of NBA experience. As for the Grizzlies, theyâ€™ve never played a playoff game in May. So, conventional wisdom would have predicted a quick exit for Memphis.
But, in this series, Memphis has put on a clinic in quickness and opportunism. The Grizzlies led the NBA in turnovers forced per game (16.5) and steals (9.4). And, in Mondayâ€™s contest, Memphis scored 20 points off 17 turnovers, while stealing the ball 8 times.
Though San Antonio has held the advantage in the paint, Memphis has scored exceptionally well from the three-point line (42% in Mondayâ€™s game), and, as a team, made over 80% of their free-throws - which can be invaluable in the stretch when you get 21 shots from the line. The Grizzliesâ€™ field goal percentage was also over 50%, which also bested the Spurs.
Looking at Memphisâ€™s defense, the Grizzlies were 23-3 in the regular season when they held their opponents to under 90 points. And when they can hold Spurs all-star starters Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson to a combined total of 6 points in 56 minutes of floor time, theyâ€™re definitely doing the right things. They also have the ability to turn up the speed against San Antonioâ€™s old guard, as they proved Monday night with a 14-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter.
But for tonight, with their backs against the wall, I expect a much different San Antonio team to show up. They have a 36-5 regular season record at home, and as playoff veterans, know how to keep their cool in critical situations. Memphisâ€™s job is to stay out of its own way by keeping miscues to a minimum and try to keep exploiting and converting San Antonioâ€™s mistakes.
Should Memphis win tonight, they will be only the second eighth-seeded team to defeat a No. 1 seed since the playoffs went from a five- to a seven-game format during the 2002-2003 season â€“ the other being the 2007 Golden State Warriors. But in the end, I believe San Antonio and its big-game experience holds serve and the series returns to another sold-out game (it would be the seventh of the season) in Memphisâ€™s Fedex Forum.
[Editor's note: the original version of this story made reference to the Portland Trail Blazers instead of the Golden State Warriors]