A Dr. Jack-style breakdown of the Spurs-Grizzlies first round matchup
If you were reading ESPN.com in the early 2000s, you might remember the playoff breakdowns from Jack Ramsay, Hall of Fame coach of the 1977 Trail Blazers. Dr. Jack—he held a Doctor of Education from Penn—passed away just weeks into the Spurs' 2014 title run, but that's no reason we can't honor his memory with an Dr. Jack-style analysis of the Spurs' first-round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Backcourt: Mike Conley may have played last year's playoffs with a broken face, but an Achilles injury will keep him sidelined this spring. Tony Parker's defensive deficiencies should be a non-issue against Conley's replacement, Jordan Farmar (9.3 points and 3.1 assists in 12 appearances). This season, Parker amassed his lowest point total since his rookie year, but he kept busy dishing out 5.3 assists per game and shooting better than 41% from 3 for the second straight year. At shooting guard, Tony Allen (First Team All-Defense!) has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury but will play Sunday. If Allen guards Parker while Farmar hides on Danny Green, Green should relish the chance to shake his season-long shooting slump. Last year, Green shot 41.8% on 457 3-point attempts; this year, 33.2% on 349. Edge: Spurs.
Frontcourt: From February, when Marc Gasol suffered a season-ending foot fracture, until the end of the season, the Grizzlies posted a 109.5 defensive rating, worse than any team not called the 76ers, Lakers, or Nets. In that same time, they were bottom-six in blocks and defensive rebound rate. Opponents guarded by Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, and Chris Andersen, on average, shoot better by 3.5%, 2.5%, and 4.4%, respectively. In three meetings against this frontcourt, LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points and 9.7 rebounds) and Tim Duncan (9.3 and 9.3) almost averaged double-doubles. Kawhi Leonard only faced this team twice, but he should have no problem getting his shots. Edge: Spurs
Bench: Xavier Mumford, Bryce Cotton, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green—these are the players who will see time off Memphis's bench. If their names don't sound familiar, that's probably because they've played less than 2,200 combined NBA minutes. If their names do sound familiar, perhaps you're recalling their stints with the Austin Spurs, or their D-League All-Star Game appearances. On the other end of the spectrum, the Spurs bench combined for 30.1 win shares and led all other benches in assists (11 per game), FG% (47.9), defensive rating (97.3), and net rating (10.9). Big edge: Spurs.
Intangibles: After the Gasol and Conley injuries, everyone counted Memphis out, but, here they are in the playoffs, in part thanks to smart coaching from Dave Joerger. The Spurs will also need to block out any memories of their 2011 first-round series, when they fell to the 8-seeded Grizzlies. And then of course there's the Vince Carter factor. Do you remember the last time the Spurs faced Vinsanity in what should have been an easily-winnable first round series? Slight edge: Grizzlies.
Headcases: Did a Manitoban woman catfish and extort the Grizzlies' starting center, who looks like a lifer at San Quentin? Yes. Does their power forward have a criminal history that includes a DUI and ties to drug trafficking? He sure does. Will they start a small forward who drove 95 miles to "beat the sh** out of" the coach sleeping with his estranged wife? You betcha. Has their sixth man been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, pushing an ex-girlfriend down a flight of stairs, and punching Evan Turner? Check, check, check. Massive edge: Grizzlies.
Prediction: Get the brooms ready in San Antonio. Spurs in 4.