After the thrilling game 4 victory, the Memphis Grizzlies travel to San Antonio to gain the 3-2 series advantage. What will the Grizzlies need to continue their strong play?
The Memphis Grizzlies-San Antonio Spurs Game 4 matchup was the most exciting (and heart-wrenching) game in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, so far. The overtime thriller had all the ingredients for a great game. There were big shots, superstar standout performances, key defensive stops, unlikely heroes, and a photo finish from Marc Gasol in overtime. Game 4 was awesome. It was an emotional game in Memphis, with the Grizzlies able to even the series 2-2 after being embarrassed in their first two games.
Game 5 will move from the Grindhouse to the Alamo, with the series now shifting between home matchups. Coming off of two thrilling home victories, Memphis will try to ride the post “Take That For Data” momentum and try to gain the unexpected series advantage in game 5. While many wrote off the series at its onset, and even after the first two games, Memphis has made this a must-see set of games. San Antonio will try to replicate their game 1 and 2 home shellshock of the Grizzlies to regain control of the series.
Here are a few things to look out for (three C’s) in game five.
1) Controlling the Pace (and the ball)
The Grizzlies won their two games in differing fashion. In their 104-95 game 3 victory, the Grizzlies were able to win the turnover battle, forcing the Spurs to commit 22 turnovers. Memphis only committed five turnovers in their victory and shot efficiently as well. They lost the rebounding and free throw battle outrebounded 42-33 and shot 20 free throws to San Antonio’s 28. In game 4, Memphis won the rebounding battle by a wide 51-37 margin, but committed 22 turnovers to San Antonio’s 9. The Grizzlies also shot more free throws in the game, while shooting more efficiently than San Antonio in their victory as well.
San Antonio will surely be motivated after the frustrating loss on Saturday night. In order for the Grizzlies to remain competitive, they have to control the pace. They will need to play their methodic style, grinding Spurs defenders into dust. Their turnovers in game 4 led San Antonio to make a run at the end of the game, forcing overtime. They will need to replicate their game 3 ball control, while also maintaining their game 4 rebounding differential. Coach Gregg Popovich surely will have his players motivated to win. Memphis’ Coach David Fizdale will need to emphasize control, pace and rebounding to win on the road.
2) Containing Kawhi
Kawhi Leonard has been an unstoppable force all series. The Grizzlies have thrown seemingly every type of coverage against the Spurs star, yet Leonard has responded with strong games in every game except for game 3. In game four, Leonard was unleashed in the fourth quarter after a relatively poor shooting game. He finished with 43 points, scoring 21 of those points in the fourth quarter and in overtime. Leonard has been the best player in the series, and possibly the best player in the playoffs so far.
Memphis will have yet another opportunity to stop Leonard. Vince Carter, James Ennis, and Wayne Selden will play Kawhi Stopper by committee with Tony Allen in street clothes for the rest of the series. At this point, it may be more about frustrating Leonard and forcing the ball out of his hands, because he has been too brilliant thus far. Kawhi will surely have the ball in his hands at key points this game – but will he be able to maintain his torrid play?
3) Conley’s Confidence
Mike Conley was outstanding in game four, leading the Grizzlies despite the fourth quarter onslaught from Kawhi Leonard. He had a near triple-double, scoring 35 points, and also chipping in with 9 rebounds and 8 assists in the overtime victory. Conley controlled the pace for the Grizzlies, carving crafty finishes and scoring from literally everywhere on the floor. He proved his worth, providing efficiency and energy with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph shooting under 45% from the field.
For San Antonio, Tony Parker played in the first three-quarters, finishing with 22 points. He was able to match Conley, providing vintage drives to slice up the Grizzlies defense. Conley will need to do his part on the defensive end to deter Parker, along with being the leader of the offense. In the Grizzlies’ two victories in the series, Conley led the way. He will again need to contribute another strong performance against Parker. Conley’s ability to probe on the pick and roll and create off the dribble has been a useful tool. The Spurs will surely gameplan against Conley’s strong play. So it will be intriguing to see how Conley will respond to a determined defense in San Antonio.
The Memphis Grizzlies bounced back at The Grindhouse after looking dead in the water after games 1 and 2. Whether inspired by Fizdale’s fiery comments or finally breaking through, Memphis has made this a compelling series. Despite initial skepticism on Memphis’ legitimacy, they have challenged San Antonio. It will be intriguing to see how San Antonio adjusts after two losses, and how Memphis responds on the road.
Game 5 of Memphis vs. San Antonio will tip-off at 9:00 p.m. EST.