Jan 13, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates a basket with guard Danny Green (4) during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the AT

Preview: San Antonio Spurs Vs. Memphis Grizzlies - Western Conference Finals, Game 1

Jan 16, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (22) reaches for a rebound with Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the second half at the AT

(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?

MR: I am going to go out and say its a combination of three. The bigs of Memphis, Gasol and Randolph, and Mike Conley Jr. How to contain Duncan and Parker. The defensive player of the year will surely be looked at for how he will play Duncan and Splitter. Conley has been a thorn in the Spurs side. He has had himself a good post season. The matchup between he and Parker will be a good one to watch. He has to play good defense and keep Parker out of the lane.

JD: It absolutely has to be Zach Randolph. His rebounding and physicality is going to be a problem for Tiago Splitter. Not to mention, Z-Bo has good range for a big man. Splitter has to be prepared to step out on Randolph’s shooting, while taking bruises from him in the paint.

5. What’s your prediction?

MR: I have been waiting for this series since the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs back in 2011 by the Grizzlies. Spurs can and always make the right adjustments. This year they are showing more hunger and grit. Spurs in 6.

JD: I’ve struggled with this pick since Thursday night. Both teams are even in nearly every category. In the end, I think the Spurs have just enough to stretch Memphis out and get them away from their “grit ‘n’ grind” style of play. This is going to be an all-out war. Spurs in 7.

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

Point Guards
Tony Parker  -  Mike Conley
Shooting Guards
Daniel Green  -  Tony Allen
Small Forwards
Kawhi Leonard  -  Tayshaun Prince
Power Forwards
Tim Duncan  -  Zach Randolph
Centers
Tiago Splitter  -  Marc Gasol

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph  -  Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Darrell Arthur

Head Coaches
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.

Tags: Memphis Grizzlies San Antonio Spurs

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