In spite of Memphis Grizzlies’ valiant comeback effort in the second half to force overtime, the hole they dug themselves early into game 2 was just too big to overcome, as the San Antonio Spurs won 93-89 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
The Grizzlies were off to a better start in game 2, holding the Spurs to only 18 points in the first quarter, after allowing 31 in their first meeting. Their defense was without a doubt an improvement over whatever it was in game 1. On pick and roll coverage, they switched appropriately, and hedged in small doses (Memphis should never hedge hard in any scenario due to their bigs’ lack of athleticism, and inability to move laterally for more than a step). They reduced over-helping on penetration, rotated well for the most part, and thankfully, the Spurs didn’t hit a million threes.
Defensive adjustments aside, I am disappointed in Lionel Hollins for making absolutely zero changes to the starting lineup and offense until the second half. Don’t get me wrong, Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen are great defenders, but for what they give you on that end of the floor, it is not worth keeping if it means decimating your offense. Especially, Tayshaun, who has completely disappeared in this series, making no impact on either end of the floor. Same could be said for Tony Allen, but with everything he did at the end of this game, I will give him a pass. Still, he should never do anything on offense that requires dribbling.
Playing these two together falls right into San Antonio’s game plan and worse, it gives away any space for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to work in. The Spurs are more than happy to help off the two most offensively plagued Memphis players to double down on the bigger threats. And it is not even just Prince and Allen, the Spurs don’t care who is in at the 2 and 3 spot, they are willing to sacrifice open looks, as long as they have Zach and Marc contained in the low post. Hollins has to make San Antonio pay, by playing his more offensively equipped players (Bayless and Pondexter), which he did later, contributing to the second half comeback.
In the second quarter, the Spurs — led by Tony Parker, who finished with 15 points (6-20), 5 rebounds and a career-high 18 assists — went on a tremendous run to end the first half with a 15-point lead over their opponents. The Grizzlies, without Mike Conley (18 points (6-14), and 4 assists) due to foul trouble, were out of sync. They reverted back to their bad defensive habits, and couldn’t even buy a single bucket in the quarter, shooting 24 percent from the field. They scored only 1 point (Jerryd Bayless made a free throw) in the last 4:44 of the second quarter, getting outscored 31 to 18. The Spurs did most of their damage in the open floor, scoring with ease in transition to take advantage of the slow-footed Memphis team.
But things would take a quick turn in the third quarter, as both teams took turns trading blows, hitting everything in sight. Despite of this, the game still never felt close, even when the Grizzlies cut the lead to 10 to end the third. That is, until the Spurs’ 4th quarter collapse.
With the success of the Conley, Bayless, Poindexter, Randolph, and Gasol lineup, the Grizzlies slowly trimmed the lead, while holding their own on defense. Bayless, who was supposedly the defensive burden of the group, stepped up in the most critical stretch, and scored 18 points on 18 shots off the bench to give the Grizzlies a boost in the shooting department. On the other end, the Spurs went stone cold, shooting 21 percent from the field for only 9 points in all 12 minutes of the quarter. Memphis had 21 points. I don’t know if San Antonio was rattled or tired, but when Boris Diaw entered the game for Tim Duncan, who left the game with 5 fouls, they just didn’t look like themselves. They made defensive errors and stopped doubling down on Z-BO for short periods and he took advantage, completing a huge and-1 play to cut the lead to 4 with 52 seconds to play. Soon after that, Manu Ginobili turns the ball over, pulls Tony Allen down in mid-air for a flagrant 1 foul, costing his team total of 4 points (Allen’s free throws, followed by Mike Conley’s game tying floater) and the game was headed to overtime.
There wasn’t much to say in overtime, both teams were gassed at this point, and the only well rested player left was Tim Duncan. He went off for 6 of the Spurs’ total 8 points in OT, grabbed 2 boards and got a potential game saving block on Gasol to give his team a 2-0 series lead before heading to Memphis for game 3 on Saturday.
A Few Observations:
- The Grizzlies have 2 distinct advantages: rebounding and defense. They out-rebounded the Spurs 60 to 46 in this game. The main difference was on the offensive glass, where they won 19 to 4, but Memphis only scored on 4 of those rebounds. That’s 8 points on 19 offensive rebounds. They have to make the best out of these opportunities if they want to move on to the next round. On defense, as long as they can be their “second-best in the league at defending threes in the regular season”-selves, they will be okay.
- It maybe too late, but Memphis should try a defensive scheme similar to Indiana, where they force every drive into their best defensive player. With the Spurs constantly exploiting Zach Randolph on the pick and roll, it might be wise to do that with Marc Gasol, since he is rarely targeted on those plays.
- Keyon Dooling should not see a minute in this series. At his age, he gives the Grizzlies nothing, and if I am Lionel Hollins, I am not sure if I would be okay with a Dooling and Bayless perimeter line of defense.
- Last thing, I would love Ed Davis to play Darrell Arthur’s minutes. Between the two, Ed is arguably the better offensive player (Darrell hasn’t been the same since his injury), and is definitely more physically gifted to defend against the smaller Spurs lineup. Ed’s length and speed would be a huge improvement over Darrell in any pick and roll situations.