NBA Playoffs 2011: Why the San Antonio Spurs Are in Trouble

Max MinskerCorrespondent IApril 23, 2011

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 17:  Forward Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 17, 2011 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs were the NBA's second best team in the regular season only trailing the Chicago Bulls. They won 61 games and looked like one of the favorites heading into the playoffs. However, the Spurs have run into some problems thus far, and we now have reason to doubt their dominance. It's certainly very possible the Spurs make a deep playoff run, but at this point I am very skeptical.

The Spurs were probably not focusing as much on the first round of the playoffs as they should have. They may have assumed they would be moving on and started to look at some of their matchups down the road. This is a dangerous game to play in the postseason, and it seems as if the Spurs may be in for a close one against the Grizzlies.

Right now the series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 tonight. The problem with the Spurs losing one of their home games is that going into Memphis is never an easy thing to do. The Grizzlies were the eight seed, but they were excellent at home. Only four teams had a better home record than the Grizzlies. It is likely they will be favored in both home games and if they can pull off two wins, they will have a huge advantage in the series. 

The Grizzlies won Game 1 in San Antonio by just three points. The catch was, Manu Ginobili didn't play in that game. George Hill filled in for the injured Ginobili, and while he's not the same player it's not like they had a scrub replacing him. Hill had 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals. He was a capable back up, and if Ginobili is rushing back and isn't 100 percent healthy, Hill might not be that much worse.

In Game 2 with Ginobili, the Spurs won by only six points. Ginobili put up 17 points, adding seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. The stat lines are pretty similar between Hill and Ginobili. However, Ginobili turned the ball over five times in Game 2, and shot extremely poor from the free throw line. They are both uncommon occurrences from Ginobili, and he may be hindered more than we think.

If Ginobili can't perform at a high level during the rest of the series, the Spurs are going to be in a lot of trouble against the Grizzlies. This kind of problem has been a concern for Spurs fans all season. They are an aging team, and some of their key players are somewhat injury prone at this stage in their careers. Manu being one of them.

This just shows us that the farther the Spurs go into the playoffs, the more likely an injury could occur. This kind of problem isn't necessarily something that will plague them for a game or two and then be done with. This is something that could continue to happen throughout the postseason. They are not built to play 90 games in a season, and have started to see the effects of this already.

This series with the Grizzlies is described best by Shane Battier. "We're in a five-game series now. For all intents and purposes, it's 0-0, and the first team to win three games wins the series." Except the Grizzlies get three home games, and the Spurs get two. If the home team has the advantage in this series, the Grizzlies have to be considered a threat to beat the Spurs. 

The Spurs are clearly the better team in this case, but it is possible the Grizzlies win this series. That's not the only reason they are in trouble. If the Spurs are worried about the Grizzlies, we have to keep in mind that they still have to play OKC/Denver and Lakers/Mavericks before they can get to the championship. At this stage, it's looking like the Spurs are vulnerable and a secondary contender. 

Game 3 tonight will tell us a lot about exactly how vulnerable the Spurs are. If they come out strong and dominate Memphis on their home floor, we can expect the Spurs to to emerge from this series, but a close game or win by Memphis would be cause for concern for many Spurs fans. Between injuries and losing Game 1, the Spurs are no longer the favorite out of the West.