The Memphis Grizzlies won their first playoff game in franchise history. This is a major accomplishment for the young team. The Grizzlies previously made three appearances in the postseason, with three consecutive sweeps.
However, the thing that caught my attention today was Charles Barkley and his comments towards the San Antonio Spurs.
In the pre-game show Barkley called the Spurs overrated and then proceeded to trash everything about the city of San Antonio.
Kenny Smith quickly jumped to San Antonio’s defence, stating that a team that won 61 games could not be overrated. He took a jab at the BSC ranking arguing there is no arbitrary ranking system in the pros and if you win 61 games you must be a good team.
Well, after Game 1 of series I’m not completely ready to write-off the Spurs, but they are in for a tough series.
Tim Duncan has been in the news recently for his comments alleging that the Grizzlies purposely tanked the final two games of the season in an attempt to get a first round matchup with the Spurs.
On paper this might seem like a no-brainer.
San Antonio has won four championships since Duncan joined the franchise. The team has the best record in the NBA. And the league’s longest tenured coach in Gregg Popovich.
Then there are the Grizzlies.
The team has almost no playoff experience. The only players on the roster with playoff experience are Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Zach Randolph and Leon Powe.*
However, the Spurs have gone away from what made them successful in the past, their size. Gone are the days of the Twin Towers.
Now the Spurs are more of a small-ball, guard oriented team. Duncan played a career-low in minutes this season. The team features the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal and George Hill.
There are currently two big problems: (1) Ginobili is injured and (2) Memphis is too big.
Ginobili has been the team’s second leading scorer this season and the team’s closer. He is currently out with an elbow injury and his status for game two is unknown.
Normally, the team with the best record in the league missing one of its key guys wouldn’t be that big of a problem, but Memphis has some of the best perimeter defenders in the game.
Both Allen and Battier are more than capable of shutting down opposing players. Therefore, without Ginobili to break down the defence, the Spurs are that much weaker.
That brings me to my second point that the Grizzlies are just too big for the Spurs.
San Antonio features Duncan upfront and a bunch of undersized forwards. Antonio McDyess was good in his prime, but he can’t match up against Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol.
DeJuan Blair is only 6’7”. Tiago Splitter was widely considered the best player not in the NBA, but he hasn’t learned the NBA game quick enough. Finally, there is Matt Bonner, who despite being 6’10” cannot be considered a “big man.”
Despite all of Randolph’s off-court issues he is one of the best power forwards in the game. The man is a 20-10 machine, which is why, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Grizzlies just signed him to a four-year, $71 million contract extension.
Then there is Gasol. He was originally just a throw-in by the Los Angeles Lakers when they acquired his brother Pau three years ago. That isn’t the case anymore.
Marc has lost weight since the Lakers drafted him and is becoming one of the better centers in the league. Any team looking to fill a void in the middle will give him a look this summer.
Luckily for Memphis he is a restricted free agent and can match any offer he receives.
I have trouble going against the San Antonio Spurs. Analysts and fans alike have been writing this team off for years. They are too old. They can’t compete for a title anymore. Then every year there they are in the playoffs once again. However, this may finally be the year when it comes true.
The Grizzlies are missing Rudy Gay. He is still out since he injured his left shoulder in a game against the Sixers back in February.
And Mike Conley will never develop into one of the top point guards in the league. However, if Ginobili misses the entire series it could be a perfect storm for the Grizzlies.
A combination of their perimeter defence and interior scoring might just be enough to finally get out of the first round and taste postseason success.
* Jason Williams won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. However, he is currently injured and unlikely to play in any postseason games.