NBA Playoffs 2017: The Keys To A San Antonio Spurs Victory.

Apr 4, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) moves the ball against the defense of Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) moves the ball against the defense of Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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The San Antonio Spurs will take their talents on the road  tonight as they look to take a 3-0 series lead against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The all pivotal game three is here.

The Spurs can either take a commanding 3-0 series lead, or lose in Memphis tonight and let the Grizzlies climb back into this series.

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According to NBA.com, no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Nine teams have forced a game six after trailing 3-0, and three teams have forced a game seven.

Tonight, the Spurs have the ability to put themselves in position to take a 3-0 series lead, and as history tells us, guarantee themselves a first round playoff victory.

However, for the Spurs to come out victorious tonight, it will take a complete game on both ends of the floor. The Grizzlies, who gained confidence from erasing a 26-point deficit in game two, are going to come out with immense intensity tonight.

Head coach David Fizdale went on a tirade following game two that resulted in a $30,000 fine, but his players have recently agreed to pick up the tab on Fizdale’s rant.

Mike Conley thanks David Fizdale for his postgame rant, says Grizzlies players will pay the fine https://t.co/4u3Ta6QGgU pic.twitter.com/HrX9QkCzKH

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 19, 2017

Players love when their head coach stands up for them, and Fizdale did just that. In return, you can expect for the Grizzlies to come out with a sense of urgency tonight.

If the Spurs want to emerge with a win, they’ll have to improve in these areas.

Ball Movement

Moving the ball offensively is the staple of the Gregg Popovich system. According to his rule, if you’re holding the ball for more than two seconds, you’re impeding ball movement.

Since the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, that rule has been altered a little, since Leonard has proved to be an efficient scorer when he has one-on-one coverage.

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

Nevertheless, a team that is predicated on stellar ball movement has been out assisted by the Grizzlies in two consecutive games at home. I’m not in the locker room, but I can almost guarantee that Popovich has been preaching more ball movement since the end of game two.

In game one, the Grizzlies had 17 assists, and the Spurs had 16. In game two, the Grizzlies had 19 assists, and the Spurs had 14. For context, the Spurs averaged 23.6 assists per game during the regular season, ranking 9th in the NBA.

In the 4Q, when you take out the 4 free throws, the Spurs scored 17 points on the Grizz defense in 18 possessions.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 20, 2017

Granted, Leonard was on fire in both games, scoring 32 points in game one, and 37 points in game two, shooting a combined 71.4% from the field.

While that’s great, his production has slowed down the ball movement a bit, which could be a recipe for disaster on the road. By the same token, the assist total would be a lot higher if guys like Danny Green (game one) and Patty Mills (game two) had hit their open shot attempts.

When you have one superstar, you cannot be one-dimensional. Especially, when you’re playing against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

For the Spurs to beat a great defensive team on the road, they’ll need 20 or more assists.

Turnovers

If ball movement is the most important thing in Popovich’s system, limiting turnovers would be a very close second. If the Spurs lose, it’ll be because the opposing team beat them, not because they beat themselves by turning the ball over.

In game one, the Grizzlies committed eight turnovers, while the Spurs committed nine. In game two, the Grizzlies committed eight turnovers, and the Spurs committed 14.

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

While those stats may not jump out at you, they are significant. In closely contested ball games, committing six more turnovers means six extra possessions for the opposition.

Somehow, the Spurs have had less assists, and more turnovers, and yet they still came out with two wins against the Grizzlies. On the road, the Spurs must improve their offensive efficiency.

Bench Production

In game one, the bench production was stellar. The Spurs bench had 39 points, while the Grizzlies bench had 25 points, which resulted in the Spurs winning by 29 points.

In game two, the bench production was fairly pedestrian. The Spurs bench had just 19 points, while the Grizzlies bench had 31 points, which resulted in a much closer game.

So Dave Fizdale hinting the Grizzlies' adjustment might be to start Zach Randolph. Not sure what I think of that.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 19, 2017

While it’s not confirmed, Fizdale is hinting at starting Zach Randolph. This strengthens the Grizzlies starting unit, especially in the paint area, but hurts their overall depth.

This means the Spurs second unit will have some opportunities to flourish tonight. Mills struggled in game two, but you can expect him to regain his shooting form tonight on the road.

X-Factor

Manu Ginobli has yet to score a point in this series, going 0-for-4 in both game one and game two. This is the perfect game for Ginobli to have a vintage performance off the bench.

Many bench players benefit from playing in front of their home crowd, as it’s very easy to get discouraged with your shot making abilities on the road.

However, for a guy like Ginobli, who has played in numerous crucial games on the road, playing on the road is no different than playing at home. Ginobli lives for these kind of moments.

Ginobli finds his shooting stroke, and scores 10 important bench points on the road.

Final Prediction

Fizdale has yet to comment on Tony Allen’t status, so all signs point to him missing game three.

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If so, Leonard will see a plethora of traps and double-teams tonight, as the Grizzlies rather someone else on the Spurs beat them. Players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol have to be prepared to be aggressive offensively when Leonard is being doubled.

Parker scored 18 points in game one and 15 points in game two, and the Spurs will need another double digit scoring outing from him to come out victorious. Aldridge, who had just 11 points in game two, will have to have a better showing tonight against the Grizzlies’ bigs.

Arguably the biggest player to watch in this game outside of Leonard and Ginobli is (Pau) Gasol, who will see a shot attempt increase tonight. If those double teams do come Leonard’s way, Gasol will see his fair share of three point attempts.

Having a center than can stretch the floor the way Gasol does spells trouble for opposing teams who attempt to trap and double Leonard.

When Pau is at the 5, a Grizz trap becomes difficult because of Pau's spot-up & passing ability.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 20, 2017

Towards the end of the game, Popovich usually rolls with Mills/Green/Leonard/Aldridge/Gasol, a lineup in which every player has the ability to hit shots from long-range.

Okay, maybe not Aldridge, but you get what I mean.

Ultimately, this game will come down to the wire. However, down-the-stretch, when the defense really tightens up, I believe in the Spurs offensive abilities more than the Grizzlies.

As I said before the series started, the winner of this series will be the better executing offensive team, and that has been, and will continue to be, the Spurs.

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Spurs go down early, weather the storm, and steal the game late in the fourth quarter.

Leonard and Aldridge score over 20 points.

Parker, Gasol, Ginobli, and Mills score over 10 points.

Marc Gasol has a vintage 25 (points) and 10 (rebounds) game, but it isn’t enough.

Spurs win, 100-95.

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