For Spurs, young core and defense are key to a play-in win over Grizzlies

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San Antonio Spurs
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The San Antonio Spurs can beat the Grizzlies with defense

Despite the fact that I'm most concerned about some of the Grizzlies' role players and their combined impact, it would be a huge mistake for the Spurs to neglect Ja Morant. In the Spurs' first encounter with the Grizzlies back in December, Morant posted 44 points and 9 rebounds in their losing effort.

While that is far from being a particularly impressive defensive showing by the Spurs, it's worth keeping in mind that in all three games against them, LaMarcus Aldridge was still the starting center. That, along with the fact that the Spurs are desperately in need of a defensive-minded power forward, has led to the Spurs giving up 50.2 points in the paint per game-- the fifth-worst in the league.

With Jakob Poeltl taking over the starting role at center for the Spurs, the addition of Gorgui Dieng to the roster, and Drew Eubanks continuing to step up for the Spurs as he's seen more minutes, I am hopeful that the paint will be more protected on Wednesday compared to the Spurs' last three games against the Grizzlies.

Good interior defense from the Spurs frontcourt is what will also allow for the Spurs guards to focus on playing better perimeter defense, which will be just as important in stopping Memphis.

In the Spurs' two most recent games against Memphis, the Grizzlies shot a scorching hot 32-65 from three (49 percent overall). If the Grizzlies are able to shoot like that from distance come Wednesday, the game may be over before it even starts.

It will be crucial for the Spurs to cover the Grizzlies' sharpshooters to the best of their ability and force deep shots from players like Morant or Dillon Brooks, who are both relatively below-average 3-point shooters (30 and 34 percent on the year, respectively).