Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY
Manu Ginobili comes out ahead in a fight for a rebound with teammates Gary Neal and Memphis’ Zach Randolph as Boris Diaw looks on during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Sunday Afternoon. San Antonio took a convincing 105-83 victory to open up the series.
In a season in the NBA’s Western Conference that was filled with LA drama and swirling winds of change in Oklahoma City, it took two teams full of grinders and to borrow late 80’s rap parlance, “no frill MCs,” to steal the show in what has been deemed all year to be the more entertaining side of the Association.
Living up to its reputation of playoff readiness, the San Antonio Spurs took Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Sunday afternoon against the Memphis Grizzlies 105-83. In the process, the Spurs not only showed that the youthful Golden State Warriors backcourt didn’t run them out of breath but that the formidable Memphis frontcourt can get whooped on too.
Zach Randolph’s 1 for 8 performance for 2 points exemplified a tough day overall for the Grizz, but falling behind 0-1 is nothing new to this team, who lost its previous openers to the Clippers and the Thunder too. Maybe Z-Bo and the guys like to play from behind, the franchise’s previous best playoff run came two years ago when it knocked off the top-seeded Spurs as a No. 8 seed.
Two men who have seen these teams through all their playoff ups and downs have been Memphis native Karvis Jones, a Production Assistant for Fox Sports South, and San Antonio native Joe Ruiz, a freelance journalist and one of the best Twitter follows when the Spurs tip off. Here are both men with their takes on certain important topics regarding the series.
1. Last time these two met it was a clear upset, a No. 8 seed (Memphis) beating a No. 1 (SA), a hobbled 1, but a 1 nonetheless…who would be upsetting who now? SA looks as strong as ever but people are lovin’ the Grizz.
Jones: The upset would be in favor of the Grizzlies. Memphis has been under the radar all season long and has been one of the teams around the league no wants to play.
Ruiz: Both teams are evenly matched, but I think public perception would still label a Grizzlies win as the upset. A casual fan might not recognize what Memphis has done to get to this point and many will only see the Spurs’ history when thinking it through. Plus, you have the older, wiser perception in place and that’s what’ll stand out, especially since many thought the Spurs would be in the WCF anyway, albeit in a rematch of last year’s series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
2. What are you loving about your team entering this series and what from the other side has you scared as hell?
Jones: Memphis has momentum on their side after winning four straight, including three of the last four on the road (ed. note – prior to Sunday). San Antonio is a veteran team that has proven time and time again they know how to win games. The Spurs’ fundamental style of play might pose a problem for Memphis.
Ruiz: I love how the Spurs have had production from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Green shot well in all of their wins over Golden State. Plus, the Spurs were able to adjust very well defensively as the series progressed. That being said, the Grizzlies scare the hell out of me. This is the worst possible matchup for the Spurs in the West. The Grizzlies are playing the best basketball right now outside of Miami and they don’t make mistakes. They’ll wear on you offensively and their defense is relentless pressure. Plus, their offense is playing so well right now. That’s going to be where the Spurs can win this series. If they disrupt the offense and force the Grizzlies into bad shots, the Spurs have a good chance. I’m just not sure it’s possible.
3. What on-court matchup do you think will define this series?
I think the Mike Conley-Tony Parker matchup will define the series. Conley has stepped up his game during the playoffs and is proving that he’s not afraid to take over games, like he did in Game 2 against Oklahoma City
Ruiz: The guard play. Parker is banged up, but save for Game 6 against the Warriors, has still played well. Conley runs the offense well and scores when needed. Tony Allen is one of the best defenders in the league and watching him match up with Tony, Kawhi, Manu Ginobili and Green is what basketball fans should enjoy. The second match up to watch might just be Zach Randolph and Tiago Splitter. Splitter plays surprisingly well against Z-Bo and that could throw a wrench into the Grizzlies offense.
4. Whoop that trick or the Screaming Lady? Who or what needs to die first?
Jones: The Screaming Lady needs to die first.
Screaming Lady hasn’t been back since Game 1, so I’m thankful for that. Memphis has “Whoop That Trick” (and also, the best arena music in the biz) firing up the crowd for awhile now. I think the better matchup would be with “Go Espurs Go.
” I don’t get to tell the history of this song often, so I’ll do it here. When I was at KSAT.com
a few years back, a viewer submitted this song and wanted us to play it, so I hosted it on our site. After I left, the page didn’t make the transition, so I’ve forgotten the musician’s name, but I hope he knows his song has floated around the Spurs insider community and, believe it or not, is a bit of an anthem around the Spurs’ online fan base. You can tell its age by its cheering for Fab Oberto, Big Shot Rob and Michael Finley, but it still gets love.
5. Finally, the prediction…who will win this series and one (legit and non-homerish) reason why?
I think the Grizzlies will win this series in seven games.
Memphis is known to attack with points in the paint and crash the boards. The Grizzlies defense will also help turn the series in their favor. Memphis ranked first in the league in team defense, and as a result, the Grizzlies had three players named
to the NBA All-Defensive Team.
Ruiz: This is the hardest call, and I’ll gladly wear my homer cap, but I call Spurs in seven. While the Grizzlies are playing great ball on both sides of the court, I don’t think they’ve faced defensive pressure like this before in the playoffs. They’re gonna trade games at home and go into Game 5 tied. I’ve got a feeling the Grizzlies are gonna get pick-and-rolled to death on the defensive end. Honestly, I could see this as Grizzlies in 7, too. You know who wins here? The fans. We’re gonna see some great games this series.
Follow Karvis on Twitter @KarvisJones, Joe @joeruiz and Regal Radio @regalradio1