NBA Playoffs 2017: Five Reasons Why The Spurs Are Primed For Playoff Success.

Apr 15, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball over Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Vince Carter (left) during the second half in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball over Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Vince Carter (left) during the second half in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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The San Antonio Spurs put together another complete performance last night, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, 96-82, taking a 2-0 series lead.

All is well in the Alamo City.

The Spurs took a commanding 2-0 series lead last night, holding the Grizzlies to just 82 points for the second consecutive game. Although the Spurs weren’t as efficient offensively as they were in game one, the defense remained stellar.

Through two games, the Spurs are scoring 118.2 PP/100 and holding the Grizzlies to 92.6 PP/100.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

The Spurs held the Grizzlies to 37.8% from the field, and 25.9% from beyond the arc.

The Grizzlies, who are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, were out rebounded for the second straight game, 39-35.

However, the biggest takeaway last night was the ability to get to the free throw line. The Spurs went to the line 32 times last night, making 31 of them (96.9%). Kawhi Leonard was a perfect 19-of-19 from the free throw line, attempting more free throws than the entire Grizzlies team (15).

Kawhi's 19-19 free throws are third-most made without a miss in a playoff game. Dirk Nowitzki (24-24) in 2011, Paul Pierce (21-21) in 2003.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) April 18, 2017

According to head coach David Fizdale, the referees were “unprofessional” in their officiating last night, and didn’t give the Grizzlies a chance to compete in this game.

If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.

There is a lot to take in from Fizdale’s comments. While I don’t agree with everything he said, I do agree that superstars who don’t complain as much aren’t rewarded with as many foul calls.

“We don’t get the respect we deserve because Mike Conley doesn’t go crazy. He has class and just plays the game,” Fizdale said.

However, his beef was with Leonard, who shot 19 free throws by himself, in comparison to the Grizzlies, who shot 15 as a team. The only problem is, Leonard isn’t a superstar who complains when he doesn’t get the benefit of the call, either.

Fizdale's rant: pic.twitter.com/nHqFsrB5Qb

— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) April 18, 2017

Were there some calls that should of gone the Grizzlies way? Sure, there always is, but the fact remains: The Grizzlies attempted 15 more shots (24/55) from two-point range than the Spurs did (19/40), and made just 5 more attempts. They also attempted four more three pointers (7/27) than the Spurs did (9/23), and made two less of those attempts.

The Grizzlies had more points in the paint (30-20), more fast break points (12-11), more bench points (31-19) and committed less turnovers (8-14), yet their largest lead was 1-point.

Why? The Grizzlies have no answer for Leonard.

1. Kawhi Leonard: The Efficient One

Let’s cut to the chase: Leonard is absolutely phenomenal.

In game one, Leonard had 32 points (in 32 minutes) on 11-of-14 shooting, along with three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a perfect 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.

In game two, Leonard had 37 points (in 40 minutes) on 9-of-14 shooting, including 11 rebounds, two assists, and a perfect 19-of-19 from the free-throw line.

Kawhi Leonard is the only player to score 35+ points on less than 15 shots in a playoff game in the last 30 years.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) April 18, 2017

Leonard has scored 69 points on 28 shots, and is shooting 71.4% from the field, in the playoffs, against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Granted, Tony Allen, the Grizzlies best perimeter defender isn’t playing, but 71.4% shooting in the playoffs is exceptional regardless.

When asked about his performance, Leonard had a very Leonard response:

Kawhi Leonard on his career high 37 points tonight: "I'm just happy we got a win tonight."

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

At this point, Spurs fans are asking themselves, “is Leonard actually human?” That question is becoming more and more difficult to answer these days.

There aren’t many games where the Spurs have just as many turnovers (14) as they do assists (14), and if the Spurs lost, this would be the focus for Gregg Popovich. Actually, who are we kidding, it’s still definitely the focus of Popovich, who is preaching ball movement as we speak.

Nevertheless, when you have a guy like Leonard who can bail you out of several bad offensive possessions, it helps alleviate pressure off of guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker.

Kawhi on needed adjustments for Game 3: Limit turnovers, execute on offense, defense and bring the right energy.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

The Spurs go as far as Leonard can take them, and right now, there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how far he can take them. Obviously, continuing to shoot over 70% from the field is unrealistic, but if he can continue to score 25ppg on 50% shooting, opposing teams are in a world of trouble.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge – The Silent Sidekick

While Aldridge’s impact may not always appear on the stat sheet, he is still producing.

In game one, Aldridge had 20 points (30 minutes) on 8-of-18 shooting, along with six rebounds,  and two assists. In game two, Aldridge had 11 points (41 minutes) on 3-of-8 shooting, including four rebounds, one assist and two blocks.

The Spurs' top-5 playmakers in Game 1 vs the Grizzlies based on Usage %:

Aldridge 32.7%Kawhi: 30.9%Parker: 26.7%Mills: 20.0%Lee: 19.0%

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 17, 2017

The stats may not impress you, but consider this: When Leonard is shooting over 70% from the field in two games, why take away shots from him?

There will be a game where Leonard struggles from the field, and Aldridge will be asked to step up and help ease the scoring load, and I have faith Aldridge has the ability to do so. It’s also worth noting that Aldridge is drawing Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on defense, two elite defenders.

LaMarcus Aldridge now has 1,000 playoff points. Other 4 to reach 1,000 in first 46 playoff games since 2006: Durant, Curry, Westbrook, James

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) April 18, 2017

Game three the Grizzlies will come out with intensity, and will probably look to double team Leonard more often, which will open things up for Aldridge offensively.

When it does, Spurs fans can expect a vintage outing from Aldridge. Until then, expect him to be passive, as long as Leonard continues to shoot like a mad man from the field.

3. TBT – Throw Back Tony

It may not have been as awesome as watching Leonard torch the Grizzlies for the second straight game, but seeing a quick, spry Parker on the court is pretty close.

In game one, Parker had 18 points (21 minutes) on 8-of-13 shooting, including two rebounds, two assists, and a perfect 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. In game two, Parker had 15 points (23 minutes) on 6-of-14 shooting, along with three rebounds, one assist, and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Kawhi on Playoff Tony Parker, who is averaging 16.5 points per game: "He know what to do."

Danny Green: "We know what Tony's capable of."

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

In 22 minutes, Parker is averaging 16.5 points per game on 51.8% shooting. Per-36 minutes, Parker is averaging 25.8 points per game.

However, the beauty of it is, Parker is playing minimal minutes, which explains why he looks so young and aggressive these past two games. Without the worry of back-to-back games and heavy minutes, Parker can do what he does best: put the pressure on the defense.

Mind you, this is coming against Conley, who is a underrated defender. As long as Parker stays fresh, even elite defensive point guards will have trouble guarding him in the pick-and-roll.

4. Danny Green and Patty Mills – Finding the Range.

Green and Mills haven’t been hot at the same time. Yet.

In game one, Green had two points (20 minutes), along with five rebounds and four blocks, but was 0-of-2 from beyond the arc. Mills, on the other hand, had nine points (17 minutes), including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.

In game two, Green had 12 points (29 minutes), two rebounds, one block and 4-of-5 from three point range. Mills scored just five points (24 minutes) on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three point range.

"We haven't got half of their physicality yet," said Mills of how much more physical and aggressive Memphis is going to be in the series.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

Green was off in game one, but Mills had it going. The following game, Green found the range from beyond the arc, but Mills was struggling. The reason I bring them up is because with all the attention on Leonard, Aldridge and Parker, those shots will always be there.

Mills had superb looks last night, just wasn’t able to connect. If these two guys can find their stroke on a consistent basis, the Grizzlies won’t be able to double team Leonard.

If they can’t double team Leonard, the results of game one and two will resurface. The Grizzlies are banking on their double teams to slow down Leonard, and will live with the results. If Green and Mills find the range, those results won’t be optimal for the Grizzlies.

5. Boom Boom Pau (Gasol).

Gasol, much like Aldridge, hasn’t been a stat sheet filler. That position on the Spurs is currently occupied by Leonard. That doesn’t mean they are non-existent, either.

In game one, Gasol had six points (24 minutes) on 2-of-7 shooting, along with four rebounds, one assist, and a perfect 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. In game two, Gasol had 10 points (29 minutes) on 4-of-6 shooting, along with five rebounds and a perfect 2-of-2 from three point range.

"At their place, it's going to be a lot harder for us," said Pau Gasol of the approaching Game 3 Thursday.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

His numbers haven’t been off-the-charts, but when he’s on the court, the Spurs are at their best.

Gasol has altered his game to include more long-range shooting, helping him to adjust to the modern-NBA, as well as preserve his body from taking a beating down in the post.

Last night the Mills/Green/Kawhi/Aldridge/Pau lineup posted a Net Rating of +56.4 in 9 mins.

Best lineup to stop MEM trap on P&Rs.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

When Mills/Green/Leonard/Aldridge/Gasol are on the floor together, the entire team can shoot. If the Grizzlies want to bring the double team in game three, the Spurs will have a plethora of open shots from long range.

If Mills and Green can shoot it as consistently as Gasol, the Grizzlies will get blown out in game three. If they can’t, the Grizzlies will climb back into this series.

Game Three

The Spurs got away with a win despite their lack of ball movement, and on the road against a desperate Grizzlies team, they won’t be able to do that again.

They say a series doesn’t officially start until the the away teams wins one on the road, so tomorrow’s game three will be a true test of grit for the Spurs.

San Antonio is an early 4-point favorite for Thursday's Game 3 at Memphis.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 18, 2017

However, if Allen doesn’t suit up for the Grizzlies, it’s going to be a long day for them defensively, as Leonard is near unconscious from the field at this point.

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Tune in tomorrow for the official game preview.

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