Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs Betting Prediction
By Dan Favale
Two-seed versus seven-seed matchups typically aren’t anything to write home about, especially in the Western Conference, where there is usually a clear separation between the top and bottom.
And yet, the Memphis Grizzlies lucked out here.
Yes, this is a weird thing to say, because the San Antonio Spurs remain scary as all hell. But the alternatives for the Grizzlies included facing the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors, both of whom are more frightening opponents for them. They shoot a ton of threes and play at a faster pace. Though head coach David Fizdale has modernized the Grizzlies’ offense quite a bit, they are nowhere near potent enough to win best-of-seven sets that turn into nightly shootouts.
The Spurs, by comparison, play a similar style to the Grizzlies. They like to control the time of possession, dictating the pace with clock-consuming half-court sets. The Grizzlies, in theory, can hang with that.
Here is the catch: Where the Spurs are a hyper-efficient team in the half-court on offense, the Grizzlies just aren’t. And when they are, the lineups they use come at the expense of their defense.
It’s an uncomfortable situation, one that’s only complicated the absence of the injured Chandler Parsons and, more recently, Tony Allen. Granted, the Grizzlies score like a top-10 offense per 100 possessions when Mike Conley, their starting point guard, is running the show. That’s a big deal. But he cannot play 48 minutes every night. They need a backup playmaker to alleviate the burden he carries, which they just don’t have.
Worse, the Spurs have absolutely owned the Grizzlies over the last half-decade or so.
Since 2011-12, including the playoffs and regular season, San Antonio is a ridiculous 26-6 against Memphis—a winning percentage north of 81.
That record looms large, even with the Grizzlies playing a tad more versatile. Their starting five, headlined by a very flexible frontcourt of Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green, might be able to wage war with the Spurs. That’s a distinct possibility. But what happens after that.
The Spurs have the best set of reserves in the NBA. This is not an exaggeration. Their second-stringers posted the highest net rating of any other bench by a country mile during the regular season, according to NBA.com. So unless the Grizzlies plan to limit their rotation to five or six guys, they’re in trouble.
And even then, even in the most ideal scenario, even if Kawhi Leonard is slumping for the Spurs, it’s tough to imagine the Grizzlies winning this series. Their margin for error is so damn slim. The Spurs, overall, placed seventh in points scored per 100 possessions and first in points allowed per 100 possessions. So even when you factor in the Grizzlies’ top-seven defense, the Spurs win every possible aspect of this battle.
Dive deeper, and you find even fewer silver linings.
You want to be able to say the Grizzlies will win at least two individual position battles. They have point guard wrapped up, thanks to Conley, but where else are they going to win?
Shooting guard goes to Danny Green. Small forward goes to Leonard. Power forward goes to LaMarcus Aldridge, though the battles between him and JaMychal Green should be epic. Center could go to Marc Gasol, but the Spurs’ committee of David Lee, Pau Gasol and Dewyane Dedmon is serious business. Sixth man goes to Patty Mills. And, as we already discussed, the rest of the Spurs’ reserves combine for the best bench mob in the league.
Where does that leave the Grizzlies?
To put it bluntly, absolutely screwed.
And, in all likelihood, staring down the face of a brief five-game playoff stay.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-1050) in five games