Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies

Feb 6, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) guards San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) guards San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs will continue their quest for a number one seed tonight when they travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.

Since suffering a tough loss on Wednesday against the Portland TrailBlazers, the Spurs had a much needed two day layoff before their game tonight against the Grizzlies.

The Spurs enter this game at 52-15, 1.5 games back of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. Despite their loss on Wednesday, the Spurs are 7-2 in the month of March.

Unfortunately, the toughest part of the schedule is yet to come.

#Spurs' have league's sixth-toughest schedule from here on out, beginning with tonight's outing with surging Grizzlies.

— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) March 18, 2017

That tough schedule begins tonight against the Grizzlies, who enter this game with a record of 39-29, currently seventh in the West. The Grizzlies began March on a five game losing streak, but enter this matchup on a three game winning streak. If the season ended today, this would be your first round matchup.

When Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News asked Manu Ginobli about this game, he echoed it’s importance.

“We didn’t play well that game at the beginning of the road trip in February, and Memphis is a team that gets you better because of their toughness, their aggressiveness, their solid defense,” Ginobli said. “So, it is an important game. We want to get this one back.”

The Spurs understand the importance of capturing a one-seed in the West. The difference between playing the Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets in the first round is night and day.

To accomplish that goal, they will have to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis tonight.

First Matchup

The Spurs and the Grizzlies faced-off back during the beginning of the Rodeo Road Trip.

The Grizzlies won that matchup in Memphis, 89-74. While Gregg Popovich may not use this as an excuse, it’s worth noting that Kawhi Leonard did not play in that game.

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The Spurs struggled to score without him, as their leading scorer was David Lee with 14 points. LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting, along with 10 rebounds. Ginobli finished with 12 points and three assists.

The Grizzlies were led by Marc Gasol, who scored 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting, including eight rebounds. Zach Randolph also had 15 points, along with six rebounds. Mike Conley contributed 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting and nine assists.

Without the services of both Leonard and Pau Gasol, the Spurs were unable to find a rhythm on the offensive end, leading to the 36.6% field goal percentage and 21.1% three point percentage.

There is a positive, though. The Grizzlies, with their full squad, shot just 39.5% from the field, and 21.1% from beyond the arc. The Spurs were able to neutralize the Grizzlies, holding them to just 89 points. Unfortunately, when you score just 74 points, you’re likely to lose.

Current Matchup

The Spurs and the Grizzlies will continue their regular season series tonight in Memphis. This time, both squads appear to be at, or near, full health. The Grizzlies will be without their $94 million dollar man, Chandler Parsons, who suffered a partial tear in his meniscus.

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  • The Spurs are awaiting word on Tony Parker, who is estimated to make his return to the floor tonight. Dejounte Murray, who has also missed the last few games, is likely to miss tonight’s game against the Grizzlies.

    Even if Parker returns, you’d imagine Popovich will limit his minutes and continue to play Patty Mills for a large portion of the game. However, Parker’s return will be significant for the depth of the Spurs, as Mills is most effective playing alongside Ginobli, Lee, and Gasol.

    Offensively, the Spurs are scoring 106.5 points per game, 12th in the association. The Grizzlies are scoring just 101.4 points per game, 27th in the NBA.

    Defensively, both of these teams are elite. The Spurs allow just 98.5 points per game, second in the NBA. The Grizzlies are allowing 100.4 points per game, fourth in the NBA.

    As far as defensive efficiency, the Spurs are first, and the Grizzlies are fifth.

    The Spurs and the Grizzlies are incredibly similar teams. They rely on their elite half-court defense to hold opposing teams in check, and run efficient half-court offenses off PG-C pick-and-rolls.

    However, the Grizzlies aren’t nearly as deep as the Spurs, and that’s where the advantage lies. The Spurs can throw Aldridge, Dewayne Dedmon, Lee, and Gasol at Marc Gasol, limiting his offense.

    If they can accomplish that, it will put the scoring load on Conley, who is much more comfortable as a facilitator than as a scorer.

    Matchup to Watch

    Since (Pau) Gasol missed the first matchup earlier this season, this will be the first opportunity to matchup against his baby brother, (Marc) Gasol.

    Thanks bro @paugasol

    — Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) March 18, 2017

    Although (Pau) Gasol is not starting, he is usually the first one off the bench. If this game is close, which it should be, both Gasol’s will be in the game in the fourth quarter, which should be incredibly entertaining to watch.

    The Verdict

    Adding Leonard and Gasol into the lineup, there is no chance the Spurs score just 74 points.

    More from Spurs News

    With Parker slated to make his return, the Grizzlies will struggle to stop all of the Spurs pieces on offense. Leonard will either have a size advantage over Tony Allen, or a speed advantage over Vince Carter, who just so happens to be the oldest player in the NBA (kudos to him).

    Ultimately, this game will be a slugfest between two defensive juggernauts. You can expect another inefficient shooting night from both sides.

    This game will light a fire under the Spurs because it will remind them how badly they do not want to play the Grizzlies in a seven-game series. Yes, they may come out victorious, but the beating the players will take in that series will hurt them going forward.

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    (Pau) Gasol somehow outscores his brother (Marc) Gasol.

    Leonard doesn’t reach 30, but he and Aldridge go over 20 each.

    Spurs win a tight one, 100-95.