After one of the best post-game interviews that has happened in recent history, the Spurs head to Memphis up 2-0 in this playoff series. Without a doubt, the Grizzlies will be more physical in their home arena, but will their physical play allow them to win a game or two in Memphis? Here are five factors to consider for the rest of the series:
Tony Allen: Still Injured
This man is quite possibly the only answer for Kawhi Leonard. The five-time all-NBA defender is out with injury indefinitely, and the only replacements that are available is a 40-year-old Vince Carter and Wayne Selden, a 3rd-year player. Tony Allen limited Kawhi to 20.5 PPG on 43.5% field goal shooting in the regular season. For reference, Leonard has dropped 69 points on 28 shots thus far in the series, and he might just keep on roasting the Grizzlies as the series comes to a close without Tony Allen.
Gasol x Gasol
It’s amazing that these two are squaring up against each other for the first time in their careers. Although Pau Gasol comes off of the bench, he provides an immense spark for the Spurs by shooting 100% from three-point range so far. Marc Gasol, on the other hand, is one of the key contributors to the Grizzlies success, as was demonstrated in game 1 where he dropped 32 points. Anytime one Gasol posts up the other Gasol, one can only imagine the potential matchup if they were both in their primes, but this matchup still provides fans with excitement. Without both of their contributions, this series would look completely different, and they are both fundamental to each team’s success. Whether it’s Pau’s threes or Marc’s fadeaways from the post, this is a matchup that is fundamental for the success of their respective team. The spacing, the passing, and the rebounding that each of them provides is too crucial to their post-season success.
Tony Parker MVP
MVP jokes aside, Tony Parker has been on the heels of Mike Conley thus far in the series, otherwise known as the highest paid NBA player in today's game. As I watched Tony Parker drill back to back three pointers, it dawned upon me that Parker is one of those vets that don’t give half a damn throughout most of the regular season (see: Dwyane Wade) and can turn it up when it matters the most. He was driving to the basket as if he was 19 again, and has absolutely no fear in his eyes. If Parker can sustain his great level of play thus far in the series, we can expect the Spurs to move onto the semi-finals sooner than expected.
Danny Green’s Defense
After watching game one, Danny Green finished the game with 2 points, 5 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and 4 blocks. 4 blocks is an incredible feat for anyone to get in the playoffs, let alone a shooting guard. Green was an absolute defensive hound in game one, adding defensive pressure to every Grizzlies player imaginable. Switching, double teaming, and everything in between that he did was absolutely impeccable. He is quite arguably one of the most underrated defenders in the league today, as the last time people took note of his defense was against the Miami Heat in the finals, and he is making his presence known in the spotlight once again. Look for Danny to be the defensive anchor throughout the series and the playoffs as Kawhi takes care of the offense.
LaMarcus Aldridge Being Quiet in the Playoffs?
I personally became a fan of Aldridge when he went off against the Houston Rockets in 2014. He was an absolute animal that series, dropping something along the lines of 30 PPG, and 11 rebounds throughout the series, and dropping 46 in the first game and 43 in the 2nd. It’s unlikely that he’s going to be getting those kinds of numbers, but Aldridge could be contributing more offensively in the Spurs system and could be taking better shots. He’s shooting 40% from the field and averaging 15 PPG along with 5 boards a game. Throughout the regular season, he was shooting 47%, with 17 PPG along with 8 boards. It’s very likely that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are containing him well in the post, but this is a concern if the Spurs were to face the Thunder in the second round as they have an incredibly deep big man presence. Aldridge is the second option behind Kawhi Leonard, and although Kawhi has been amazing, the success of a team in the playoffs generally relies on the success of multiple stars as seen in game 7 last year with Kyrie Irving hitting clutch shots, LeBron James with the block of the decade, and Kevin Love playing incredible defense on the last possession of the post-season.
In summary, Tony Allen is a key factor for the success of the Grizzlies, especially on defense. Without him, Kawhi will feast. Gasol Squared is an important and entertaining matchup for either team, as they are both incredible big men who provide necessary spacing on the floor. Tony Parker looks like his former MVP self throughout most of the series, and Danny Green is making his presence known on the defensive end of the floor. Lastly, Aldridge needs to step it up as the series and playoffs continue if San Antonio looks to make a deep playoff run this season. Those are the key factors for the rest of this series, and tune in on Thursday to see the Spurs face off against the Grizzlies in game 3.