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Morning Shootaround: Play Better or Play Different?

By Jeff Koch on May 20, 2013.

Lionel Hollins (USATSI); Gregg Popovich (Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

In many ways, Game 2 and Game 3 are the most interesting games in a playoff series, as they offer the first round of adjustments, then the next round of counter-adjustments, and the change of venue. After Game 3, both teams have a handle on the opponent, and the timbre of the series is often cast.

So while Game 1’s victory still tastes sweet in the mouths of Spurs fans, I’m scared as hell about Game 2. Because Memphis is a tough team, and a loss in Game 2 can negate all of the victories of Game 1.

What I’m most eager to watch for in Game 2 is what, if any, adjustments the Grizzlies make. As much as they are rightfully lauded for their smart and tough play, they are the team that likes to impose their will on the game and the series, the team that wants to force others to adjust to them. They aren’t the team that changes; you change, or you lose. They play how they are going to play–grit and grind–and you either play along (and very often, lose), or you try to impose your will (and, very often, lose). Even in Game 1, after the fast start, the Grizzlies were able to exert some small measure of control on the Game, slowing the pace down. The Spurs just kept hitting shots and playing beautifully at any pace.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are a team known for their headiness and cerebral nature, the team always ready for tweaks, large and small, to adjust to whatever the other team is throwing at them. In the last decade or so, they’ve built their success on a certain mutability, the ability to exert control on a game or a series while also adapting to the other team just enough. They could run with the Suns as much as they needed to, but still played stronger defense; they could tussle with the big men of the Lakers, but not get dragged into a street fight; they could get locked into a defensive struggle with the Pistons, but hit just enough big shots to win. Chances are, they are anticipating certain counter-measures from the Grizzlies; and if not, they game plan they’ve been devising for the last 2 years seems to have worked pretty well, with some wiggle room for improvements from Memphis.

So does Hollins make some major changes? Some minor changes (like switching Allen on to Parker)? Or does he simply implore his team to play “harder” and “better”?

Whatever the answer, I anticipate the Spurs will be ready. They never lose for lack of preparation.

Game 2 tips off at 8pm Central on ESPN.

Go Spurs Go.

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