The San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After sweeping the Grizzlies in last year’s first round, what can we expect from this series?
The NBA Playoffs are finally back and that means another chance for the Spurs to make a title run.
After a stellar 60-win season, expectations are high. The Grizzlies are no joke, and their team is built to cause problems against other western conference teams.
Here are five expectations for the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
Mike Conley Will Be a Problem
If you’ve followed the Spurs at all this season, you’d know that Tony Parker isn’t quite the player that he once was. The 34-year-old point guard has been a staple of Spurs basketball since 2001, but his production has dropped.
His athleticism has diminished and his speed has declined. Grizzlies guard Mike Conley will look to capitalize on this matchup with Parker and will likely be a thorn in Gregg Popovich’s side.
Mike Conley is a shifty point guard who can hit the outside shot or drive to the basket. When he’s not scoring, he’s facilitating for teammates and locking up opposing guards. Parker, while still apt defensively, will likely struggle to contain Conley.Luckily for the Spurs, Patty Mills has been significantly better on the defensive end. His hustle and quickness should help the Spurs to guard the perimeter when Parker heads to the bench.
Jonathon Simmons and Danny Green may also be able to help defensively, but will likely have their hands full with Vince Carter and Wade Baldwin IV. And yes, Vince Carter is still a threat.
Bench Production Will Be Critical
Each of these teams have found themselves in contention because of their skill and depth. The Spurs have one of, if not the deepest bench in the NBA and the Grizzlies are not far behind them.
Zach Randolph has become an excellent candidate for “Sixth Man of the Year” in his first season off the bench.
The importance of bench players has never been understated in San Antonio. The supreme success of Manu Ginobli has created a culture of incredible depth in San Antonio. There is no lack of skill on the Spurs’ bench.
Expect for these elite benches to be in full effect during this first-round series.
Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol will Battle
Arguably the greatest brothers to ever play, Pau and Marc Gasol have faced each other numerous times. The seven-footers have very similar play styles and are great competitors in their own rights. Although (Pau) Gasol has begun to come off the bench, his minutes are still significant and the impact that he makes will still be crucial.
As for (Marc) Gasol, he is the clear leader of the Grizzlies. The former Defensive Player of the Year is a dominant low-post presence who can stretch the floor and protect the rim. Despite the threat he presents, Gasol won’t have an easy time with the Spurs.
While Marc has the advantage of age, and athleticism over his brother, he loses the battle of IQ. Pau’s knowledge of Marc’s antics will be key in Popovich’s play calling and defending.
Kawhi Leonard Will Lead the Series In Scoring
Kawhi Leonard is the best player in this series. His offensive growth has been astounding to watch over the past year and he remains one of the league’s elite defensive presences.
One of the reasons I thought Memphis could make life hard for Spurs was Tony Allen could make life hard for Kawhi. Now Allen is out.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 13, 2017
With Tony Allen expected to miss the series after suffering a strained calf, Leonard now has complete control of this series. Allen, 35, remains one of the league’s most daunting defenders.
He’s been considered the “enforcer” of the Grizzlies for his toughness and grit. With him missing games, Leonard has no one to stop him from scoring at will.
The Spurs Will Win The Series
As threatening as the Grizzlies may be, the Spurs are just too much. After splitting the season series 2-2, many people may guess that the series is undecided. The Grizzlies are not a team to be underestimated, but they aren’t on the same level as the 60-win Spurs this year.
For Spurs fans concerned about their team's groove entering playoffs: Memphis is 1-5 in April, including 95-89 loss in SA on April 4.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 13, 2017
The Spurs are simply deeper and more versatile than Memphis without sacrificing athleticism or youth. Everything points to an advantage for the Spurs in this series, so they’re expected to emerge victorious.
The Spurs also successfully swept the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs last year.
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Although they lost Tim Duncan to retirement and Boban Marjanovic to free agency, they’re still a better all-around team than they were last year. If this is any indication of their playoff capabilities, they should be able to move past Memphis without much trouble.