The San Antonio Spurs will look to stave off playoff elimination as they host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in San Antonio for game five with the Grizzlies leading the series 3-1.
After getting blown out of game four 104 to 86, for San Antonio it is very simple: win or the season is over and the chase for title number five is over. Not only that, deal with many who will pronounce the Spurs' reign as an NBA power officially over.
To discuss tonight's must-win scenario for the Spurs, once again I turn to our good buddy Chip Crain from ESPN's 3 Shades of Blue. Your one-stop site on the Internet for all things Grizzlies.
In this Q&A, Chip talks about whether Grizzlies fans are shocked at the 3-1 series lead, what he sees as the Spurs' main issues and more.
Jeff: Are you and Grizzlies fans shocked about the 3-1 lead over the Spurs?
Chip: Well of course we are. Memphis fans knew that the Grizzlies were improving and had the potential to shock in the Spurs in a few games but no one thought a team as inexperienced as the Grizzlies and their coaches could put it together for four straight games.
Memphis fans also felt the Spurs were a great team for the Grizzlies to play since the Spurs aren't that tall, fast or young. Of the top teams in the West, San Antonio is the team the Grizzlies matched up best against.
Still no one thought we would be up 3-1 after four games.
Looking from the outside in, what do you see as the Spurs' main issues in this series aside from the lack of size?
Speed and age. The Spurs are struggling to stay in front of the Grizzlies outside of Tony Parker and Conley is nearly as fast as Parker. It's not just the size o the Grizzlies but the speed especially inside that is hurting the Spurs. McDyess, Duncan, Bonner and Blair simply can't stay with Gasol, Randolph and Arthur.
That means the Spurs have to keep Manu and the other backcourt players down low to help rebound and defend which takes away the Spurs running game making the Spurs a half court team offensively. That makes the size issue an even larger problem (pardon the pun there).
It's a possible close out game for Memphis tonight. How will this young team respond in San Antonio?
Since the team has never won a playoff game before the series no one knows what to expect in game 5. Will they relax and allow the champs to regain their senses? Will they go for the kill and try to end it on the Spurs home court?
One thing most of the fans acknowledge is San Antonio is quite capable of winning three in a row. If the Grizzlies let them up they could easily lose this series. The fans know this. The coaches know it. I believe the team knows it as well. I expect them to come out and fight for 48 minutes. They aren't experienced enough to now how to play any other way.
Which Memphis player have you been most surprised with in this series and why?
Marc Gasol. Gasol has the pedigree and the size to make a huge impact in the league but he has been rather passive this season for the most part. Surprising since he's a free agent this summer. there really wasn't any reason to suspect he would put it together against Duncan and the Spurs.
In Gasol's defense, he struggled with a high ankle sprain at the start o the year and never rested enough to let it fully heal. The time off the last week of the season and the slow start of the series helped him more than anyone else on the roster.
I know the Spurs felt the Grizzlies tanked to get the Spurs in the playoffs but Gasol, Randolph, Conley, etc., really needed the rest and while moving higher in the standings would be nice the rest was needed to compete with any potential opponent.
In your honest opinion, should Memphis bounce San Antonio out of the playoffs today, is this the end of the Spurs' reign as an NBA elite team?
Yes. Memphis doesn't want to get their backs against the wall. A loss Wednesday means the team has to win game 6 to win the series. No one wants to go back to San Antonio to play a game 7.
The series works well for the Grizzlies as the amount of time off between games shortens and that benefits the younger team but a young and inexperienced team like the Grizzlies doesn't need to put more pressure on themselves.