Offensive rating: Spurs – 109.4 (2nd), Grizzlies – 103.6 (20th)
Defensive rating: Spurs – 103.6 (13th), Grizzlies – 101.6 (8th)
Pace: Spurs – 92.3 (8th), Grizzlies – 91.2 (17th)
Time: 7:30 p.m
Radio: WOAI-AM 1200, KCOR-AM 1350
Three things to watch.
Frontcourt play. The Lakers’ frontcourt, from a sheer talent perspective, is probably the most talented frontline in the NBA. If you are lucky enough to get them into foul trouble or if Bynum suffers an injury — and he is still susceptible to a multitude of injuries — then the Lakers’ big men suddenly look, well, human. Instead of unconscious like they were last night (Pau and Bynum combined for 37 points and 41 rebounds).
The Grizzlies don’t have quite the elite talent down low that the Lakers have. What they do have, and it’s just as important, is cohesiveness. Although they lost Darrell Arthur for the entire season (torn achilles), the Grizzlies can still throw out Marreese Speights, while deficient defensively, and still have a potent pair of big men manning the post. Gasol is the Grizzlies’ best defensive rebounder, interior passer and a capable seven-footer that can stretch the defense. Randolph isn’t as efficient but he’s a better offensive rebounder and his post game, along with his deft touch that is just unreal, is more refined. He, too, can knock down the long 2-pointer. And as we all know this Grizzlies team is a force to be reckoned with.
Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair, Boris Diaw. This pertains to the Memphis frontcourt situation. So, who gets the most minutes and who gets cut out of the rotation tonight? If I had my way, I’d play Bonner the most, followed by Diaw with a little sprinkling of Blair. My reasoning: I don’t believe any Grizzlie is able to protect the rim and simultaneously guard Bonner from the perimeter. Ideally, this would prevent the deadly Gasol-Randolph combo from playing together (of course, if you read my game notes piece, the Memphis small ball lineups with Gay at the 4 have been their most productive lineups) too much. Choosing Diaw over Blair is a matter of preference and can also be attributed to the matchup. I prefer Diaw because he’ll create more offense when he’s on the court compared to Blair and his confined offensive game. Not only that but I think Diaw is substantially better defensively — if you don’t want to go that far, you have to admit he’s marginally better. Blair’s main advantage is offensive rebounding and against an elite offensive rebounding team in the league, his skill set will be rendered mute.
Turnovers. The Grizzlies are in the mold of the Miami Heat defensively. Their defense is an elite defense but they don’t do so the conventional way by forcing a high volume of misses. Their eighth ranked defense allows opponents to shoot 44.6 percent from the field, a surprisingly average number. What Memphis does, however, to compensate is create a turnovers. The Grizzlies force their opponents into a turnover on 16.4 percent of possessions making it increasingly difficult for the offense to execute. When their opposition turns the ball over 18 times, they are 13-6.
Final verdict. Spurs by two. I don’t feel comfortable picking against the Spurs nor do I feel too comfortable picking the Spurs. I have no idea what to expect. So there’s my prediction. I guess?