If I had to rank each first-round series in terms of must-see TV, I would slot the Spurs into the five hole, just ahead of the Atlanta/Washington, Toronto/Milwaukee and Cleveland/Indiana series. There are very few storylines coming out of this matchup, and I expect it to be just as dull as you could possibly imagine. The Spurs are so fundamentally sound, that I feel the Grizzlies need to play absolutely perfect basketball in order to have a chance at pulling off the upset. Probably not going to happen.
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As of this very moment, the Spurs are the second-favorite to win the Western Conference at +300 and third on the tote board to win their sixth NBA Championship since 1998 at +600. If you think the Spurs can get out of the West, I don't see any reason to dislike their chances at knocking off Cleveland (likely) in the finals. The Grizzlies are +6600 to be the Western Conference's rep in the NBA Finals and +15000 to actually hoist the trophy. I know a lot of weird stuff happened in sports over the last year (Cubs won, Leicester City won, Sergio Garcia won a major tournament, etc.), but we won't be adding the Grizzlies to that list this year.All odds are courtesy of Bovada .
If I had to describe the San Antonio Spurs organization in one word, I would choose the word "consistent". They haven't missed the playoffs since the 1996/97 season when they won 20 games in what was a completely bizarre season. Since then, they have gone on to win five NBA Championships and own a streak of 20 consecutive years in the playoffs. This season, despite losing Tim Duncan, the Spurs finished second in the West and won more than 60 games for the third time in four years. Not bad for a team with aging stars like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili logging tons of minutes. Thankfully, the Spurs have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard to lead the way.
The Grizzlies, on the other hand, have been treading water for the last month, posting a 7-13 record, which was still good enough to lock them into the seventh seed over a bunch of terrible teams below them in the standings. If someone told you they knew how the Grizzlies won 43 games, don't believe them, because they have been doing it with smoke and mirrors. They have very little in terms of raw talent. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can handle their own, and Mike Conley is quietly having himself a solid year, but after that the team has very little to get excited about.
The Spurs don't exactly light up the offensive totals but still manage to average a healthy and respectable 105.4 points per game, which has them in the middle of the NBA at 14th. They average 40 makes per game while knocking down 9.2 triples and shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. They rank sixth in the Association in assists per game (23.9), 10 th in rebounds per game (43.9) and second in blocks per game with six. With the Spurs, it's not about the stats but rather how they play as a unit on offense, with constant ball movement and a certain unpredictability that keeps the defense off balance. Individually, four Spurs average double-digits in points, with Leonard leading the way with 25.7 per game on 48.6 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc. LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker are the others to average in double figures with 17.3, 12.4 and 10.1 points, respectively.
The Grizzlies offense is ranked second-to-last in the NBA in points per game, barely squeaking over the hundred-point plateau (100.6). They also rank in the bottom third of the league in rebounds per game (43.7, 24 th) and assists per game (21.3, 21st overall). The offense doesn't even average more than 10 three-point makes per game, which in this NBA is troublesome. I could go on and on about how weak the offense is, but I will save you some time and move on. Individually, the Grizzlies have three players that average in double figures, with Conley leading the way at 20.6 points per game on 45.9 percent from the floor and 40.7 from beyond the arc. Gasol and Randolph average 19.6 and 14.1 points, respectively. After those key contributors, the drop off is steep. The Grizzlies will need Tony Allen to put up more than his average of 9.1 in order to keep up with the Spurs in this series.
When it comes to the defensive end of the court, both of these teams shine. The Spurs allow opponents to score 98.1, while the Grizzlies allow exactly 100 points per game. That has these two teams ranked second and third in the NBA, respectively. The Spurs can take solace in the fact that they have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Leonard on their side and should have full confidence in his ability to shut down either Conley or Randolph, depending on the matchup. This series has the ingredients required to be one of those old-school NBA matchups, where the first team to score 85-90 has a high likelihood of winning the game outright. From a Grizzlies perspective, Randolph (or Z-Bo, as he's known), matches up well on the inside against Aldridge. They should cancel each other out, leaving the Spurs with more talent elsewhere on the court to sneak by a pesky Grizzlies team.
If the Spurs were to lose this series, I would be shocked. Not only do they have the talent advantage throughout the lineup, but they also have a coaching advantage. Gregg Popovich is one of, if not the best, coach in the league. He knows how to make adjustments and get his guys up for big games. At this rate, the Spurs don't require any motivation from the coach because the core guys have been in the same system and environment for such a long period of time. They know what Pop' demands from them, and they go out and make it happen. While the Grizzlies are a great story, they just won't have an answer for the multiple weapons and looks the Spurs can throw at you on offense. I'm going to say Spurs in five, but a sweep is also likely.
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