The Morning Tip-Off


The Morning Tip-Off is where we scour the internet, to bring you all the San Antonio Spurs news from different outlets, all on one page. Here are your links for May 18th:

The Greatest Worst-Assembled Team in NBA HistoryProject Spurs

The Memphis Grizzlies are, perhaps, the luckiest team in the NBA right now, which fits perfectly into the first part of Popovich’s formula to success. It’s the “don’t screw up” part that the Grizzlies astonishingly seem to ignore with almost no negative repercussions. The Memphis Grizzlies have screwed up, regularly, repeatedly, and royally.

And yet no one can deny how fun and legitimately imposing these Grizzlies are as we get ready for the Western Conference Finals.

To start with, the Grizzlies core of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol was created from a series of inexplicably horrible-to-laughable moves that, somehow, ALL MANAGED TO WORK OUT FOR THE BEST DESPITE LOGIC AND EVERYONE’S BELIEFS TO THE CONTRARY!!!

Grizzlies say West finals vs. Spurs won’t be like 2011USA Today

The Spurs still have their Big Three of Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. The Grizzlies still have two dominant post players in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol with a backcourt built around Mike Conley’s offense and Tony Allen’s defense.

But as tempting as it might be to draw conclusions based on the past, there are very few recent head-to-head clues about how these two teams match up in their current forms.

Though the teams split their four regular season meetings, three occurred prior to Memphis trading Rudy Gay. In the fourth, a 92-90 Grizzlies win, San Antonio didn’t have Duncan, Ginobili or small forward Kawhi Leonard available.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies playoff previewUSA Today

Why San Antonio will win: Gregg Popovich’s team will make any adjustment they need to in transitioning from the hot-shooting Warriors to the physical Grizzlies. They have more consistent outside shooting than Memphis, who won’t be able to do much to respond if Danny Green, Matt Bonner or Kawhi Leonard get hot.

Why Memphis will win: The Grizzlies have the perimeter defense to neutralize Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the frontcourt combination of Gasol and Randolph should be more than enough firepower to combat Duncan.

Are Memphis Grizzlies Prepared for the Next Generation of San Antonio Spurs?Bleacher Report

But the point is that what Green and Leonard do on offense effectively nullifies one of Memphis’ greatest assets: its staunch one-on-one perimeter defense.

What’s more, both of the Spurs’ young guns bring their own terrific defense to the party.

Green spent the bulk of San Antonio’s semifinal series against the Golden State Warriors hounding Stephen Curry all over the floor. Fans everywhere took notice of how phenomenal Green was at defending the hottest shooter on the planet.

And recently, folks also seem to be coming around to Leonard’s fantastic defensive versatility. As Sports Illustrated‘s Rob Mahoney noted, Leonard’s ability to cover huge swaths of the court and defend anyone from point guards to power forwards has given the Spurs a frightening new small-ball option.

For evidence of that, we need only to look at the final minutes of San Antonio’s series-clinching win against the Warriors, in which Gregg Popovich actually benched Duncan and slid Leonard to the 4.

Sorry, Memphis. This year’s Spurs have a pair of defenders in Green and Leonard that are every bit as good as Allen and Prince. But San Antonio’s duo also poses a much bigger threat on the offensive end. Remember, Green shot nearly 43 percent from long range in the regular season, while Leonard hit a solid 37 percent of his triples.

NBA playoffs 2013: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

“I’m happy,” Zach Randolph said to reporters after the Grizzlies conquered the Thunder on Wednesday. “But we’ve still got work to do and I want to win a ring.”

If the Grizzlies expected to be in this position, or at least aren’t surprised they are here, the Spurs might very well have been anticipating this match-up for longer than any of us. Remember all the way back in November, when the Spurs were fined $250,000 when Popovich rested four key players during a nationally-televised game against the Heat? One explanation for Popovich’s decision to let Tim DuncanTony ParkerManu Ginobili and Danny Green rest: the Spurs wanted them rested and ready for a game against their Southwest Division rivals two days later. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili all played 35-plus minutes on that night, and the Spurs prevailed in overtime 99-95 against the Grizzlies. By the end of the season, San Antonio finished just two games up on Memphis to claim the division title, the West’s No. 2 seed and homecourt advantage in this series. Besides the massive fine, that worked out pretty well, didn’t it?