Game 1 is in a few hours and I want to give my perspective on this match up before it begins.
So we have a Western Conference showdown that features two teams from the same division (Southwest), so if the question comes about as to if the two teams are familiar with each other? Yes, they are. Memphis, who surprised everyone by winning their opening round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, specifically winning game 5 in the Staples’ Center to take a 3-2 edge in the series. And for a team that is undefeated at home in the playoffs, that’s impressive. Mike Conley has emerged as a great point guard. Regardless if some critics say that Memphis got to the Conference Finals because Russel Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder was injured in the Houston Rockets series, the Thunder would had a tough time winning their series if they did have him in the lineup. Memphis is a tough team that has a solid roster (both starters and bench) that can make this series tough. And to add more of a story line or a reason to watch this series, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2011, where the number 8 seeded Grizzlies beat the Spurs in 6 games, who were the number 1 seed in the Western Conference.
For the San Antonio Spurs, it is their 2nd consecutive Western Conference Finals, and it is Tim Duncan’s 8th Conference Finals appearance. Tim Duncan will have his hands full dealing with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, so I’m sure they’ll be a few lineup combinations where they’ll have Duncan paired up with either Tiago Splitter or Matt Bonner to ease the load off of Duncan. And if Bonner starts hitting his long range shots, it may force Gasol or Randolph to guard the perimeter, which may open up the lanes for the guard play of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to drive it to the lane.
What I look forward to see if how the coaches adjust the game plan throughout the game as well as in the series.Lionel Hollins, the head coach for the Memphis Grizzlies, was a candidate for Coach of the Year by leading the team to the playoffs even after the trade that sent their best player Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Hollins managed his roster and talent to make the team play better, especially by playing tough defense. As for the Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich, the Conference Finals is familiar territory for him. With the Grizzlies’ big men on the starting roster, he is going to have to manage the minutes of Tim Duncan and make sure he is well rested to play towards the end of the game when he may be needed the most.
This series could go the full 7 games due to how each team plays both at home and on the road, but I think the veteran leadership and experience of the San Antonio Spurs will make the right plays on both sides of the floor to advance to their 5th NBA Finals.
Spurs in 6-7 games.