San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Game 4 Preview and Predictions

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San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Game 4 Preview and Predictions

No lead has been safe with the San Antonio Spurs involved in a game so far in the playoffs. That's just what brought them to this 3-0 advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals, one step away from a sweep.

San Antonio has been ahead by 18 points and behind by 18 in the past two games against the Grizzlies, and both have gone into overtime.

Needless to say, it's been a strange series, especially considering the Spurs have won the first three games despite extremely different circumstances.

Between Tim Duncan's late-game dominance and Zach Randolph's curious inability to build any kind of momentum, it seems as if the Spurs are well on their way to their fifth NBA Finals appearance since 1999.

What will it take for the Grizzlies to start their trek down the comeback trail, and what are the odds that San Antonio will record the first conference finals sweep since the New Jersey Nets beat the Detroit Pistons in four games back in 2003?

Time: Monday, May 27, 9 p.m. ET

Where: FedExForum, Memphis

Series: San Antonio, 3-0

TV: ESPN

 

Key Storyline: The Power Forward Disparity

Game 1 stands out as strange compared to the last two that we've seen between Memphis and San Antonio.

The Spurs spent the majority of the game getting work done around the perimeter with their backcourt players. Memphis used its usual inside-outside game, getting solid production from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

Tim Duncan walked away with six points and 10 rebounds, while Zach Randolph flopped with two points and seven boards (and an astonishing plus/minus of minus-28).

From there, Duncan seemed to be jarred awake, but Randolph continued on the same track through the next two games.

Duncan averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal over the next two contests, shooting over 50 percent in the process. Even more impressively, in the two overtime periods in Games 2 and 3, he has scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.

Most of this is coming with Gasol guarding him as Lionel Hollins looks for any way to slow the big man down.

It's gotten to the point where San Antonio is shooting so well from the perimeter that Randolph has to go out and hover all over Matt Bonner. He gives Duncan a solid look at the basket on every high pick-and-roll that he's pulling off with Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili.

Gasol is playing too high in the post, and Duncan is able to roll just fast enough to find space for layups or to kick it out to the perimeter.

Duncan isn't moving like he's a 25-year-old standing next to David Robinson anymore, but he's still producing like he is.

Randolph has been an utter disaster over those two games as far as shooting is concerned, averaging 14.5 points on 34 percent shooting while nabbing a ridiculous 16.5 rebounds per game (eight offensive). It seems that he's doing his best to make up for being absolutely overmatched on offense (even when Bonner is guarding him, he's having troubles) by inhaling rebounds.

So far, it hasn't been enough for the Grizzlies, mostly because he's not converting a ton of those offensive rebounds into points. 

Randolph is going to be key in Game 4. The only question is whether he's a key player for the Grizzlies or the Spurs.

 

Series Star So Far: Tony Parker

While Duncan has been an absolute monster late in games, Parker has done a ton of the legwork from start to finish in the first three.

From his 18-assist night in Game 2 to his 26 points in Game 3 and his constant ball-hawking throughout, Parker has been incredibly effective, even given his poor shooting night in Game 2.

He's making the right passes (as usual), scoring at a relatively efficient clip at 46.4 percent (as usual) and doing his best to protect the ball and work inside the Spurs' offensive system, never going straight into hero ball for more than a possession.

So far, Parker is averaging 20.3 points, 10.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals through the first three games of the series.

It's pretty safe to say that Parker has been the driving force of the San Antonio offense, completely controlling the pace of the game on his own at times.

 

Projected Starting Lineups:

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker (PG), Danny Green (SG), Kawhi Leonard (SF), Tim Duncan (PF), Tiago Splitter (C)

Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley (PG), Tony Allen (SG), Tayshaun Prince (SF), Zach Randolph (PF), Marc Gasol (C)

 

Injury Report (Via CBSSports.com):

Spurs

No injuries reported.

Grizzlies

No injuries reported.

 

San Antonio Wins If...

The offense continues to flow.

San Antonio has racked up 77 assists in the first three games of this series (compared to Memphis' 57). Its offense gets into grooves where every single player seems to know what the others are doing three and four steps into the future.

San Antonio's had a quarter in which every made shot was assisted, and another when Parker racked up an assist on eight straight field goals.

In essence, the Spurs are running a near-perfect offense, save two or three quarters out of 12.

Their pick-and-roll is running so smoothly that it seems like the main participants have been running it for over a decade—oh wait, they have.

Out of the pick-and-roll, drives to the basket will either finish with a solid look at a layup or a kick out to either corner that moves the ball around the perimeter until the most wide-open shot is found. It turns Memphis' defense into a confused mass of closeouts happening too slowly and guys getting lost, especially late in games.

If that continues, look for San Antonio to close out the sweep.

 

Memphis Wins If...

Both post players contribute on offense.

Randolph has made steady improvement over the course of the series. The only problem is that his improvement is building upon a 1-of-8 night that killed his team in Game 1.

He's ratcheted things up to 6-of-18 in Game 2 and 5-of-14 in Game 3, improving from 12.5 percent from the field in Game 1, all the way up to 35.7 percent in Game 3.

Marc Gasol has had a bit of a rough series as well. Of course, it helps that with Randolph playing so poorly, Gasol's troubles pale in comparison. He is shooting just 39 percent in the first three games, averaging 14.3 points.

With the three-pointers falling at a similarly poor rate that they did during the regular season (34.6 percent is a slight improvement), the Grizzlies really need both post players making solid contributions.

While the offense is a struggle, they are having solid contributions on the rebounding front, combining for 25 boards per game.

Memphis really needs to find a way to get those two rolling early and keep them hot, otherwise it could be a disappointing exit after an exciting first two rounds.

 

Prediction

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

San Antonio proved in Game 3 that a loud, towel-waving crowd in Memphis does nothing to faze its attack.

With Duncan in a stellar groove, Parker running the offense as well as he ever has and the peripheral members of the Spurs making sure that everything goes according to plan, the Spurs have become a tough team to hold down.

They've come back from a 18-point deficit, frittered away an 18-point lead while still staying confident and worked their way to a blowout all in three games. There's not a situation they haven't succeeded in so far.

Memphis' defense is going to have to be stellar to slow down the free-flowing, well-oiled Spurs attack in order to walk away with a win in Game 4.

Duncan might need more than a celebratory beer after Monday night's game.

San Antonio Spurs 97, Memphis Grizzlies 91
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