With the Memphis Grizzlies looking to avoid elimination in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, we took some time to discuss the upcoming game with Daniel Nicks and Timothy Brown of FanSided’s Memphis Grizzlies site Beale Street Bears, along with Michael Rehome of Air Alamo. The two gladly answered questions about the keys to victory for each team and the pivotal match ups that we should be keeping an eye on.
What did Daniel and Timothy have to say? Check it out:
FanSided: Why have the Spurs been so dominant throughout the first three games?
Nicks: Execution, consistency, experience; some sick horror goblet of all three. But it mostly comes down to the Grizz’ inability to convert on second-chance opportunities – or anything really.
Brown: Every team who has played Memphis so far in the playoffs has tried very hard to make sure that they can score on the stifling Grizzlies defense, and has expended much less effort on stopping the Grizzlies offense, since it’s bad enough to more or less take care of itself. The Spurs, however, have realized that they can still score, albeit slowly and painfully, on Memphis’ D without too much extra effort, while extra defensive effort can COMPLETELY shut down the Grizzlies offense. So, they’ve focused on the defensive end more than the offensive, counter to both the Clippers and the Thunder, and it has worked brilliantly. Danny Green (or Neal, Ginobli, etc.) and Kawhi Leonard have been completely ignoring Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince and even QPon to an extent and have started doubling and trapping in the paint and it’s been brutal. The Grizz can’t ground and pound anymore and it’s killing them.
Spurs: The Spurs have surprised a lot of people in the Western Conference Finals and have proven to be pretty dominant against a team that coming in lived by the ‘Grit-n-Grind’ style of play. The Spurs matched that with their physical play and able to get their big man Zach Randolph out of his game. Tony Parker’s will to get into the lane and make everyone around him better and break down the defense as well as he has is just amazing.
FanSided: Do you believe the Grizzlies have any magic left in them from the Thunder series?
Nicks: They could dress up like Harry Potter for all I care, but it won’t change the fact no team in league history has battled back from an 0-3 deficit. I mean, could they make history? Sure. Will they? Doubtful.
Brown: I don’t think they lost any “magic” at all, I think they’re doing poorly as a result of a) a functional Spurs offense that won’t turn over the ball or give up the game to iso play, and b) an inability to score on tough D. There’s no mojo to pick up really, Memphis just needs to outsmart San Antonio, and frankly, it just doesn’t really look like that’s going to happen. The two teams are actually really well matched, so I’m not going to claim that the Spurs are going to sweep or anything; my point is just that there isn’t some intangible spark that the Grizzlies need to find again. They’ve just been outplayed.
Spurs: I honestly don’t feel the Grizzlies have any magic left. When Westbrook went down in the OKC series, all things pointed to Memphis winning as the Thunder were missing a big piece of their offense, a player that could create for himself and hit big shots. Memphis had a chance to make something happen in game three. They came out on fire, hitting every shot they put up, and feeding off of their crowd. When Popovich benched all five starters, they [Grizzlies] could not capitalize on an 17 point lead. Spurs cut it down to four at the half and at that point, I knew the Grizzlies lost some sort of hope.
FanSided: What match up is the most important for the Grizzlies to get the win?
Nicks: Zach Randolph and whatever two players the Spurs double-team him with.
Brown: I think that for the Grizzlies it all comes down to whether Tony Allen, Bayless, QPon, or Prince can make the Spurs pay for sagging off of them, AND whether they can maintain their defensive intensity while they’re doing that. In Game 3, San Antonio started to pick up the pace and catch up to the Grizzlies after that first quarter run once Bayless came in and Gasol came out. Bayless brought great offensive energy, but he could not make the right defensive rotations, and Marc wasn’t there to cover up for his mistakes. Bayless needs to hit those shots and force San Antonio to spread out their defense, but he also can’t let the Spurs go on offensive runs either. It’s a delicate balance, but to combat the Spurs with how well they’ve been playing, all the guards and wings just need to do both.’
Spurs: Tony Parker vs Tony Allen. Hollins has thrown the much bigger and longer Allen on Parker. What Tony Does so well and the Spurs is developing match-ups that are in their favor. When they go into the pick-n-rolls, they put Zach Randolph in an area that he is not very good to defend. Parker on Allen has to keep taking him into pick and roll so that he is switched off and Parker can go one on one. Tony needs to also continue his penetration as well as dissecting the defense of the Memphis Grizzlies. They are so worried about Tony getting into the lane that all five players react to him and he is able to find the open shooters.
FanSided: 4. Who will be the star player in Game 4?
Brown: Parker. He has been completely and totally dominant, no question. He’s played like the best point guard in the league for the entire series, no one has the ability to take control like he does. Marc Gasol has been underrated though; he’s never put up huge scoring numbers this series, but he has had an incredibly impressive defensive presence, and he’s transformed the Grizzlies every time he’s come on to the court. He’s been consistent, and imposing, and controlling. His passing, his vision, and his presence and borderline virtuosic defensive rotations have made him the best Grizzlies player consistently. Unfortunately, no individual Grizz player has really approached Parker’s heights this series. I don’t really expect any shift in that dynamic for Game 4.
Spurs: Manu Ginobili. He had his best game of this series on Saturday. He is unpredictable. You do not know what Ginobili will be on the floor come gametime. He does so much on the floor, whether it is scoring, hustling, defense, etc. He is the Spurs boost off of the bench. If he settles and takes care of the ball without making careless turnovers, he will have a good game and the lead the Spurs to their second sweep of this years playoffs.
FanSided: 5. What are your predictions for tonight’s game?
Nicks: I’ll go with the Grizz, because apparently I’m a masochist.
Brown: It’s going to be really close. I have no idea who will win, though. Hollins has been great about making the right adjustments from game-game-game, Popovich has just been better about making the right adjustments in game. I think it comes down to whether the Grizzlies feel like there’s any pride to be had in a gentleman’s sweep: if they Grizzlies feel like winning one makes a big difference, then they can absolutely win it. A motivated team, in the Grindhouse, on the brink of elimination? Yeah, they can do that. On the other hand, if they feel like one win is just as bad as no wins, then they won’t win game 4. Personally, I don’t think that getting swept would too terrible: I think most people in the West just want the Heat to lose in the end, and a Spurs sweep would get them at least a 10 day break before the Finals start. So, Memphis getting swept might not be the worst thing in the end.
Spurs: Again, many people did not think we would be talking about a Spurs sweep. The Memphis Grizzlies are a team that is on a brink of elimination and I feel that the only chance they had in taking a game in this series was game 3. They didn’t capitalize so now they find themselves down 0-3. Spurs will have that killer instinct tonight. They must win the series tonight a nine day rest period awaits them. Spurs win game 4 and complete their sweep. 95-85