Spurs know the task ahead in Memphis won't be easy
The scene will shift in the opening round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies for Games 3 and 4 at the FedEx Forum - a place that wasn't kind to the Spurs during the regular-season.
The Spurs went 0-2 at Memphis and will look for their first win at the right time at the FedEx Forum this season.
In their first meeting, the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol and the Grizzlies took advantage of their absence in a 84-74 win. The Grizzlies were led by their frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph who scored 15 points each. For San Antonio, they were limited to 37 percent shooting overall and 21 percent from outside the arc - both were season-lows for San Antonio.
Kawhi and Pau returned for the Spurs second meeting and Memphis showed the grit and grind and powered their way to a 104-96 win. In that game, Kawhi played 36 minutes and scored a team-high 22 points. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 in the loss. For Pau, he started his role of coming off the bench for the team scoring eight points in 24 minutes. But it wasn't enough for San Antonio to hand Memphis a home loss.
Over two games during the regular-season at the FedEx Forum, San Antonio is averaging 85 points per game and shooting 40 percent from the floor. What also is alarming, the Spurs have not shot well from beyond the arc in their two games in Memphis.
San Antonio has lived by the 3-point shot this season, but struggled dearly shooting 27.6 percent connecting on just 13-of-47 in Memphis.
With San Antonio heading into Memphis with a 2-0 series lead, Patty Mills and Gasol know the team they saw on Monday night, will be the team they saw in Memphis.
“I think it's going to be what we saw in the third quarter and then some and a lot more. We’ve been expecting it," said Mills. "We got hit on the chin tonight, and it's going to be even more aggressive and physical play in their building. We’ll have to find ways to counter that.”
It did not stop with Mills.
Gasol also knows with Memphis being down 0-2, they are going to bring it all.
“There’s no question that they’re going to come back with everything they have," said Gasol after the Spurs Game 2 win.
"If they get into us and we allow them to disrupt us and don’t meet that physicality and we allow them to be the aggressor, then they will feel like they have a good chance or at least a better chance. We just have to come out hard, take initiative, understand who we’re facing and be strong with the ball.”
Pau nails it on the head.
Everything he mentioned from taking initiative to being strong with the ball has to be key for San Antonio. When the Grizzlies defense ramped up in the second half of Game 2, they forced the Spurs out of their game. San Antonio did not move the ball. It was more of a one pass, shoot, kind of offense in the second half and Memphis took advantage of it and chipped away at the lead, which they brought back to four.
“We’re going to have to be physical, continue to battle every possession and we cannot loosen up and relax even if we are a certain amount of points ahead on the scoreboard," Gasol said.
"We just have to stay sharp, no let ups, and stay disciplined for 48 minutes. Otherwise, this team will keep fighting. They have a lot of good players and at home it’ll be much harder for us.”
Memphis were 24-17 overall and 16-10 versus West teams at home during the regular season. Though the result from Game 2 was not what they had hoped for, they do have momentum so to speak heading into Game 3.
San Antonio led in Game 2 by as many as 26 points, all in the first half. Memphis came out in the second half a totally different team. It was a bit of a role reversal for San Antonio. The Spurs seemed to have abandoned everything they did in the first half.
Memphis played inspired basketball in the second half of Game 2 and they'll be looking to bring that momentum in Game 3 in front of their home crowd.
In the first two games of the series, the Grizzlies averaged 82 points per game. In their two regular-season wins over the Spurs at the FedEx Forum, Memphis averaged 96.5. Could history repeat itself?
San Antonio knows they are still in for a fight against Memphis. Randolph had a huge performance for the team in Game 2 and Conley came alive a bit. If Randolph, Conley and Gasol each get going, they can easily bring this series within reach.
The last thing the Spurs need is to get ground up once again in the "Grind House." San Antonio does not want to give Memphis any life in this series and they know it.