A great Sunday dinner put everyone to sleep right around 3:25 p.m. Not too long after sitting down to watch Game 1 of what I expected to be a long and entertaining Western Conference Finals, I gave consideration to joining everyone else in taking a nap. The San Antonio Spurs dominated the Memphis Grizzlies 105-83. Here are my thoughts on Game 1.
1. Craig Got Him Again- During Game 1, the Spurs frontline collectively played Craig to Memphis’ Z-Bo. From the time that the Grizzlies crossed half court, the Spurs had someone shading towards Zach Randolph to keep him from getting the ball. The few times he was able to get it, there were immediate double teams that had Randolph visibly frustrated. The constant harassment led to a pathetic two-point performance (on 1-8 shooting) from Randolph. It was easily one of his worst games in years. The Spurs were able to negate the high-low offense that the Grizzlies run so well, which limited the options for Memphis. Randolph was also not able to carve out his usual space for offensive rebounding. The Spurs limited him in every way in Game 1. In order for Memphis to win this series, he has to play like the Z-Bo who has everyone tucking their chains and running to hide. Today, with the whole neighborhood watching (a raucous AT&T Center) Craig knocked out Z-Bo cold. Let’s see how he responds in Game 2.
2. Shooting Down Grizzlies- In the time leading up to the series, much was made about the Grizzlies being the top-rated defensive team in the league. They held teams to 89.3 points per game in the regular season and stifled the Clippers and Thunder on their way to the Conference Finals. Watching the game on Sunday, you would have thought they were the Sacramento Kings with defense being optional. The Spurs were 14-29 from the three point line, many of which were wide open shots. The open shots were the result of exquisite ball movement by the Spurs and atrocious defensive rotations by the Grizzlies. Tony Allen, who was the leading vote-getter for the NBA All-Defensive Team was constantly out of position, often gambling unnecessarily. The Grizzlies are not a team that can rely on outscoring you to win. So, to make this a series, they need to correct these problems. In the event they don’t, the Spurs will have a field day all series and possibly send the Grizzlies home in four, maybe five games.
3. Efficiently Boring- For years, I have been one of a few of sports fans I know who do not mind watching the Spurs play. A lot of people find them boring, but as a basketball die-hard, I truly appreciate how they play. The ball and player movement on offense is excellent. They work as a unit on defense. It really is a beautiful thing to watch. I am all for watching individual players do their thing on a nightly basis, but it is refreshing to see a team where you do not know who is going to kill you each night. Popovich puts these guys in position to make plays and they respect him enough to submit to being chewed out when they make a mistake. With their big three winding down as a group, it is my hope that fans both casual and die-hard appreciate what they are watching. I know that is the equivalent of asking a Floyd Mayweather hater to do the same, but it’s worth a shot. Take the blinders off, watch with an open mind, and maybe you’ll find yourself fond of what you are watching.
Well, those are my thoughts coming off of Game 1 for the Western Conference Finals. I am looking forward to the adjustments that the Grizzlies make in Game 2. This is a series that I expect to go 6 or 7 games, and in order for that to happen, Memphis has to play much more disciplined defensively and get Randolph going. This is one team that I believe is mentally strong enough to bounce back and make Game 2 very interesting.
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