Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies wasn’t too kind to the Grizzlies after the first quarter.
Memphis jumped out to a 28-15 lead in the first 10 minutes, but San Antonio promptly went on a 92-44 run that spanned nearly three quarters. The Spurs played extremely physically on defense and continued to find excellent shots on the other end and ended up with a 111-82 victory.
Memphis certainly hopes Game 2 between the teams today will go differently (9:30 p.m. ET Monday on TNT). The Grizzlies are still the worse team playing on the road, but they will hope to find some cracks in the Spurs’ defense that weren’t there in Game 1.
The smart choice for the winner of Game 2 seems pretty straightforward, but some factors could swing the outcome. Let’s ask some questions that will define the complexion of today’s contest, then make this preview’s betting picks and predictions.
Can the Grizzlies Find a More Effective Defender on Kawhi Leonard than Vince Carter?
Leonard was unstoppable in Game 1, scoring in a variety of ways against Memphis’ defense. He ended with 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting in just 32 minutes. The Spurs superstar’s primary defender was 40-year-old Vince Carter, who has solid instincts, but not the quickness or strength, to stay with him.
The Grizzlies need to find a better option against Leonard. If Tony Allen didn’t have his calf injury, he would be the obvious choice, but the best options right now are Wayne Selden and James Ennis III.
If Memphis continues to rely on Carter (or the other guys flop on the defensive end when placed on Leonard), Kawhi will continue to cook from the field and easily find his teammates for assists when other Grizzlies help on his penetration.
Will the Grizzlies Make the Spurs Pay for Cross-Matching?
One of the key problems for the Grizzlies is that Mike Conley is the only above-average offensive player among all Memphis’ perimeter players. Reserve shooting guard Troy Daniels is close, but he’s one-dimensional as a three-point shooter and doesn’t have great size, athleticism or skills to do much else.
San Antonio was able to exploit that in Game 1. Instead of putting Tony Parker and Patty Mills, both below-average defenders without much size, on Conley, the team put 6’6” Danny Green on him. Parker or Mills, depending on who was in the game, merely shifted over to bigger players who didn’t take advantage of the matchup.
The question for Game 2 is whether Memphis’ role players will step up to that challenge of helping out Marc Gasol, Conley and Randolph. Someone is likely going to have Parker or Mills on them when they’re playing, so they will have to be aggressive with that.
Does Marc Gasol Have Some More Magic in Him?
If you don’t count Leonard, Marc Gasol was easily the best player on the floor on Saturday. He turned in one of his best performances of the season, going 8-of-15 from two-point range, 3-of-3 from three-point range and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line. Many of his makes were well-defended by the Spurs, but it didn’t matter.
He basically scored as well as he could. He’s usually a very good offensive player, but he looked like a legitimate superstar No. 1 option in Game 1.
Memphis will need more of this tough shot-making and free-throw excellence from its man in the middle. The squad doesn’t have the depth of offensive options to survive Gasol playing poorly.
Our Preview’s Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs Game 2 Picks & Betting Predictions
I must admit, I was surprised with how locked in the Spurs’ defense was in Game 1. The team does match up well with the Grizzlies’ slow-paced offense, though, and I guess I shouldn’t have been that shocked that Gregg Popovich did his homework on how to stop it.
That Tony Allen loss is a massive deal for the Grizzlies, and I don’t see them really having a solution for it.
- It’s unlikely Spurs will win by 29pts again, but I can easily see another win by around 15 or 20 points. The line on the spread with the betting sites has Spurs as the 11-point favorites. Pick San Antonio -11pts @ best odds of -103 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- The over-under for this game is 189 total points. Both teams made plenty of tough shots in Game 1, but they still only combined for 193 points. I don’t think either squad will make as many difficult looks in Game 2, but the pace will remain slow. My prediction is to go with the under 189pts @ -110 with BetOnline. Most other USA-facing firms are under 188.5pts.