Memphis came into this series a tough matchup for San Antonio — the Spurs want to control the paint and take away those three pointers opponents like to shoot.
Except the Grizzlies don’t really shoot threes and have more size and skill in the paint than the Spurs.
And they are more physical. In the paint with the Memphis bigs for sire, and on the wings Tony Allen and Mike Conley have followed the Grizzlies style. They pushed and the Spurs… well, Antonio McDyess characterized the Spurs response this way to the News-Express Spurs blog.
“We’re playing like a bunch of wussies,” McDyess said.
That analysis didn’t meet with much disagreement, not after the Grizzlies pummeled the Spurs 56-36 in the second half to assume a 3-1 series lead…
“They put their foot on our throat and never let up,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Popovich finally tried to use some size to counter the Grizzlies, throwing Tiago Splitter in Game 4, but by then it was too little, too late.
San Antonio won a lot of games this season because either Richard Jefferson played well (or well enough) or when that didn’t work they went to a three-guard lineup with a lot of Gary Neal and George Hill. Their big man off the bench was three-point specialist Matt Bonner, but he was draining good looks in the regular season. It may have been fools gold. In the playoffs, where the larger teams live, size was going to matter. It has mattered. And the Spurs don’t have a counter.
The Spurs ran into a Grizzlies team that in the playoffs has been allowed to play a physical game. San Antonio got punched in the mouth. And then…
Well, ask McDyess.
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“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.
“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”
That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.
I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?
It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.