The San Antonio Spurs were able to keep their season alive with an unforgettable game five victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Tonight, they enter a city in which they've yet to win a game this season.
“It’s going to be so hard. They are a team that usually plays with edge and fire. And then imagine how that arena is going to be, having the opportunity to eliminate the #1 seed in the West.” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili after game five, “It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be rough.”
When asked what it will take to win in Memphis? “We’ve got to be smart; don’t just give them the ball and let them run.” Ginobili continued, “We can’t make silly mistakes. We just have to use our experience; that age that everyone is talking about, we have to use it.”
The message tonight is simple, win or go home. That simple.
I’m here to look at some the keys that the Spurs will need to focus on to win game six and keep their season alive.
Execute and Avoid Turnovers at All Costs
Turnovers and poor execution are what put the Spurs in this 3-2 hole in the first place. Beginning with game one, the Spurs failed to execute by holding a four point lead with 1:06 remaining in the game. Memphis rallied to win with a 7-0 run.
In game three, we all remember the circus play as Manu Ginobili drove the ball out of the shot clock with seven seconds remaining. The entire team and staff looked like they each had a playbook in different languages.
In game four, the Spurs led by two at halftime but then turnovers in the second half sparked a Grizzlies blowout as the Spurs turned the ball over 17 times to the Grizzlies nine.
Even in game five, the Spurs held a 16-point lead but saw it crumble as Memphis led with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Spurs’ 15-turnovers were a key in helping the Grizzlies make a comeback.
As Ginobili said, “We can’t make silly mistakes.” The Spurs need to execute and protect the ball if they wish to stay alive.
Make Randolph and Gasol Earn Their Points
The key to making the Grizzlies frontline duo earn their points is to keep them out of the paint (less than five feet exactly) when they catch the basketball. Here’s a play from game one to illustrate what I’m referring to.
Memphis players are in green, Spurs player are in black. Conley (top of the key) simply passed (blue) the ball to Gasol three feet in the paint; the result was an easy two point shot over Duncan.
The Spurs' best defense to limit Gasol and Randolph is to play their little big men (Bonner and Blair) as minimal as possible. Duncan, Antonio McDyess and Tiago Splitter have the height and tenacity to keep the Grizzlies from catching the ball within five feet of the paint. It is their responsibility to hustle back on defense and prevent Memphis’ frontline from getting to their comfortable spots first.