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Don’t Panic

By Jeff Koch on April 18, 2017.

2017 Western Conference Playoffs, First Round
San Antonio 96, Memphis 82
Spurs lead series 2-0

I suppose we should start with what happened after the game.

That was one helluva rant by Coach Fizdale. As an impartial observer, I loved it. Impassioned, well-reasoned (as far as rants go), and highly quotable. Grizzlies fans should love it; it’s a coach absolutely going to the mat for his team.

As a Spurs fan, I’m indifferent to it. I understand the gamesmanship of it. The Spurs are absolutely taking it to the Grizzlies and getting the calls. I do wonder, though, if he went a bit too far. Calling referees “unprofessional” probably isn’t the best way to get a friendlier whistle.

So we’ll see what happens in Game 3. You can expect an amped crowd and a ton of scrutiny on the fouls. If there’s a team that can fight through it, it’s the Spurs. Avoid the silly fouls early in the game, and everything should be leveled by the fourth quarter.

But enough about that; let’s talk about the game.

The Grizzlies are good, and they get the most out of their resources. But it really does feel like they are just outmatched at this point. I’m not sure there are adjustments they can make, or players they can magically make appear that can guard Kawhi Leonard. Conley or Gasol or ZBo can go off for a quarter or two, and it might be enough to steal a game; but it sure does seem like they just don’t have enough firepower to outscore the Spurs nor enough defensive stamina to slow them down for an entire game.

The Spurs are showing me everything I wanted to see in these playoffs so far. (Yes, it’s only two home games, but I’m taking it!) Kawhi is on another level right now, and is the best player in the series by a significant margin. His best individual playoff performance in Game 1 was short lived, as he followed it up in Game 2 by besting it. Nobody on the Spurs had half as many points as him; nobody on the Spurs had half as many rebounds as him. That’s crazy.

While a quieter performance, LaMarcus is also impressing me. This is the ideal version of Aldridge as a #2 on a high-level playoff team. He can carry the offensive load when Kawhi sits. He is a beast in the paint on both ends, giving sneaky good rim protection. He is playing with the energy and ferocity of a role player, not a star. He might be losing some of the limelight, but he is earning his playoff bona fides.

Danny Green, Pau Gasol, and Tony Parker also played great. But you know who hasn’t been all that awesome? Manu, Patty, and David Lee. Imagine what might happen if the bench unit matches what the starters are doing? Now that would be a blow out.

More likely than not, though, Patty, Manu, and Lee will need to step up during a game when Tony, Danny, or Pau just don’t have it going. And what a luxury to be two deep at every significant role player position. And this doesn’t even begin to mention Anderson, Simmons, or Bertans, all who could come in and alter the course of a game in one 5-minute stint.

Which brings us back to the original point: the Grizzlies just don’t have the resources to hang with the Spurs. They can (and will) grit and grind all they want, but there’s just not enough of either to beat the Spurs 4 out of the next 5 games.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Memphis. Let’s see if the Spurs have it in them to really put this series out of reach.

Go Spurs Go.