Thought this was an interesting piece taken from a post on SI.com today:
Why The Grizzlies Will Win
After a slow start against the Clippers, the Grizzlies have reeled off eight wins in their last nine games, a streak that puts them in the “Who is playing the best basketball at the right time?” conversation with the Heat. Memphis defeated both the Clippers and Thunder by refusing to waver from its unrelenting defensive intensity and grind-you-down offense and by taking full advantage of beneficial injury circumstances. Blake Griffin sprains his ankle? Randolph beats up the Clippers until there is nothing left. Russell Westbrook misses the series after knee surgery? Mike Conley steps it up on offense while the Grizzlies team defense sinks its collective teeth into Durant on the other end. Parker’s health — he’s been limited by a variety of issues, including a leg injury — will clearly loom large as an X-factor in this series. The physical, nonstop Grizzlies are the last defense you want to face when playing at less than 100 percent and Conley — who is averaging 17.6 points, 7.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds in the playoffs — is ready and willing to exploit any edge.
As great as Gasol is, and these playoffs are helping his case as the best center in the NBA, Randolph will likely be the deciding factor in whether Memphis can pull the “upset” for the second time in three years. In 2011, he averaged 21.5 points and 9.2 rebounds against the Spurs, and his big late-series contributions against both the Clippers and the Thunder were decisive. The 2013 Spurs are slightly better equipped to deal with Randolph than they were in 2011, thanks to Tiago Splitter, but it goes without saying that San Antonio hasn’t seen anything like Randolph’s low-post abilities so far during the playoffs.
Memphis will head to the Finals if it continues to play the unshakable style the Grizzlies have been playing for the last month and through the force of Randolph’s foul-drawing, second-chance opportunity-creating, deep-post pump-faking offense. If the Spurs slip up, whether due to nagging injuries, foul trouble or off shooting nights, the Grizzlies are perfectly-positioned to catch them slipping, even if they lack an elite perimeter scorer.
Why The Spurs Will Win
San Antonio is facing its third distinct challenge of the 2013 playoffs. In sweeping the undermanned Lakers in Round 1, it had to conquer boredom. In dashing the Warriors’ hopes in round two, it had to unravel the magical shooting performances of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Here, it will be tasked with bathing in blood, sweat and tears against a Grizzlies team that has succeeded in bending its opponents to its will and deliberate style of play throughout the postseason.
The Spurs’ hopes rest largely on their elite balance. During the regular season, they finished No. 7 in offensive efficiency and No. 3 in defensive efficiency. Only Miami and Oklahoma City could beat that level of performance on both sides of the ball. San Antonio has only gotten better in the postseason, ranking No. 2 on offense and No. 3 on defense; only Miami (No. 1 on offense and No. 2 on defense) has a better postseason track record, and the Grizzlies’ excellent defense has carried an offensive that lacks perimeter firepower and ranked just 18th during the regular season.
While it must be mentioned that the Spurs’ numbers were goosed a bit thanks to the D-League caliber of the Lakers, their play in taking the final three of four against the Warriors was truly impressive. San Antonio held a high-powered Golden State attack to just 90.5 points over those four games, finding ways to limit Curry and make Thompson essentially disappear. That defense has sustained them through ups and downs on offense, as Parker and Ginobili have both struggled at times with their consistency, and it should sustain them in a grinding series against a Memphis team that made fairly quick work of the Thunder without ever cracking 100 points in regulation. Should San Antonio prevail, it will likely do so by squeezing more points out of low-possession games thanks to their three-point shooting, which ranked second in the league this season, and the old (fairly) reliable trio of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili.
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