(Just completely ignore Stephen Jackson and Rudy Gay in this picture. Okay? Okay.)
This isn’t about revenge.
If you’re using the Memphis Grizzlies elimination of the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2011 Playoffs as motivation, you’re doing it wrong.
The Spurs already learned from their mistakes that season. Gone are George Hill, Antonio McDyess, Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili’s bulky elbow cast. And for Memphis, gone are Shane Battier, O.J. Mayo and Greivis Vasquez.
Tiago Splitter was just a mere rookie at the time. Danny Green played 7 total minutes in that playoff series. And Kawhi Leonard was preparing for the NBA Draft, as San Diego State just got eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen by UConn.
San Antonio evolved itself once again in that off-season, and made it to the Western Conference Finals in a lockout shortened season. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies would make the playoffs again in 2012, only to lose to the Clippers in 7 games.
That’s all you need to know.
So with that, let’s fast forward to the present and examine this series. Air Alamo’s Lead Editor, Michael Rehome, joined me in answering some questions about this Western Conference Finals match-up.
1. What did you see from the Spurs series versus Golden State that you think needs to carry over into the Memphis series?
Michael Rehome: What I think needs to carry over is the defense that we displayed in the final few games of the series. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard did an amazing job taking their best players out of the game. Ball movement, ball movement, ball movement. We showed that when we continue to move the ball and get everyone involved, good things happen.
John Diaz: The way the Spurs adjusted their defensive intensity to keep up with Golden State’s high octane offense was beautiful. Memphis is just like San Antonio, in the way that they will execute you to death offensively. So I’d like to see the Spurs readjust to a down-tempo offense, and play the passing lanes aggressively.
2. What do you think are some weaknesses the Spurs have that the Grizzlies can expose?
MR: Tough one. Can I say there are no weaknesses? The Spurs pick and roll defense was not up to par in the Golden State series. They adjusted, but still one weakness I see.
JD: Golden State did a masterful job of owning the glass with a small lineup. Granted we’ll see more Splitter, but Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are a completely different breed of player. Memphis is fantastic at offensive rebounding and getting second chances points, so the Spurs have to create turnovers to limit the Grizzlies scoring opportunites.
3. Who needs to be the Spurs X-Factor for San Antonio to win this series?
MR: Tony Parker. It all starts with him. When he is going, the team picks up behind him. Game 5 when they needed everyone to step up, he had a huge game and so did the others.
JD: Kawhi Leonard. When you look at what Leonard did in Games 5 and 6 versus Golden State, his ability to rebound and cause havoc in the passing lanes on defense, always sparks the offense. He’s not going against the same Tayshaun Prince that gave the Spurs hell in 2005, but he’s still a great defender. Kawhi’s advantage is his athleticism and versatility.
4. Who needs to be the Grizzlies X-Factor for Memphis to win this series?
5. What’s your prediction?
Tony Parker - Mike Conley
Daniel Green - Tony Allen
Kawhi Leonard - Tayshaun Prince
Tim Duncan - Zach Randolph
Tiago Splitter - Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph - Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Darrell Arthur
Gregg Popovich - Lionel Hollins
GAME AND BROADCAST INFORMATION
When: Sunday, May 19th, 2013 at 2:30 P.M.
Where: AT&T Center – San Antonio, Texas
Television: ABC (National) Radio: 1200 AM WOAI (Local)
For perspective on the Memphis Grizzlies, head over to Fansided’s own Beale Street Bears.