Things I Googled during game one of the Spurs vs. Grizzlies:
Tim Duncan staring at wall right now
Betty Draper fat suit
Tony Parker divorce settlement
Tony Parker and Brent Barry’s wife
Zach Randolph pre-game meal
Tim Duncan announces shoe deal with Florsheim
Don Draper fingerbang threat level alert
Worst hairlines in the NBA
The Spurs gave the Grizzlies a good old-fashion Joe Jackson beat-down in game one of the Western Conference Finals Sunday, but if the first two rounds of the playoffs were any indication, the Grizzlies have them right where they want them. Don’t forget that Memphis went down 0-2 to the Clippers and 0-1 to the Thunder in each of those series before coming back and rattling off four consecutive wins to advance to the next round.
But against a maddeningly-efficient Spurs team, I’m not sure the rope-a-dope routine is the right move here. In fact, I find it troubling that Memphis seems so eager to concede the opening games just to get a feel for the other team and try to find their footing and figure out what adjustments they need to make moving forward, but if that’s how they want to play it, I have no doubt Sunday’s shellacking gave them plenty to think about before tipoff tonight.
The Spurs looked tighter, more organized, more disciplined than either of the previous teams Memphis has faced so far. In short, they looked like the San Antonio Spurs that we’ve come to know and loathe over the past decade (not to mention a far cry from the injury-plagued Spurs that Memphis ousted in the first round back in 2011).
The first thing the Grizzlies have to do is find a way to stop Tony Parker (20 points, nine assists) from absolutely running amok. The wily Frenchman spent more time in the lane yesterday than… …so they have to dream up some sort of strategy to clog the middle, stay in position on pick-and-rolls, and fight the urge to overreact on rotations. It was total chaos on defense Sunday, but it’s nothing a film session or two shouldn’t correct. Mike Prada over at SB Nation posted an excellent video breakdown yesterday of how the Spurs sent the Grizzlies’ defense into a frenzy with their devious pick-and-roll plays.
The joke about the Spurs is that you’re always playing five-on-six against them. You’re not just playing Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, et al. You’re playing against Coach Popovich as well, and though Hollins proved that he was up to the task against inferior coaches in Scott Brooks and recently-shit-canned Vinny Del Negro, he now has to match wits with a chess master, so this series could be a defining moment for the acerbic Hollins, and how his team responds in game two should tell us a lot about his aptitude and creativity with the clipboard.
There’s a reason why sports writers love to describe the Spurs as a “well-oiled machine,” and it all starts with Popovich. Everything about them is mechanical to the point of being borderline robotic. Every cog in the machine performs its function flawlessly. It’s partially why they can be so boring to watch.
If there was a silver lining to the game one loss, it was that the Grizzlies held Tim Duncan to just six points, but then again Zach Randolph, who’s averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds in the post-season so far, managed to cancel it out by making just one lousy bucket the entire game (a career low), which didn’t come until the fourth quarter. One of the few bright spots for the Grizzlies was Quincy Pondexter, who finished the game with 17 points on 5-for-9 from the 3-point line, but even that contribution was overshadowed by the way the Spurs torched the Grizzlies for 42 points from the 3-point line.
Part of the problem for Memphis was their sluggish start. The Spurs jumped out to a 31-14 lead by the end of the first quarter, and the Grizzlies never really recovered after that. Hollins has to figure out a way to get his team to show some urgency from the opening tip, and getting Randolph involved earlier should be at the top of the list. They played Duncan on Gasol for most of the first game, so Randolph has to take advantage of Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw, who might be the only person in the league with a bigger ass than Z-Bo.
We’ll know we’ve done our job if we can avoid any further garbage-time-corpse-of-Tracy-McGrady sightings or Dejuan Blair (aka Heady D) and-one circus shots.