Mike Conley tried. Tony Allen had some success, particularly late in the game, but even he was not consistent. Jerryd Bayless and everyone else that tried pretty much got torched.
For the third game in a row, Tony Parker’s quickness off the dribble was the thing Memphis really had no answer for, and his penetration into the paint led to more defensive breakdowns. This to a Memphis team that was really rock solid all season. And the result is a Spurs team up 3-0.
After a first quarter to forget (1-of-4 shooting with four turnovers) it was more of the same — 14 of Parker’s 22 shots came inside the paint (or on the low box) in this game. Parker finished with a team-high 26 points. Which actually is sort of what the Grizzlies wanted — they wanted him to shoot contested shots rather than kick out to wide-open shooters on the wings (which killed them the last couple games). But that is a double-edged sword because Parker can score.
And how do you think his five assists came? Actually, no, not drive and kicks. Each time he came off a pick, pulled multiple defenders parallel out with him then hit either someone like Matt Bonner on the pop or Tim Duncan rolling down the lane.
Lionel Hollins can try, but he can’t scheme this away because if his rock star perimeter defender is focused on Parker then Manu Ginobili starts to do his thing (19 points and 5 assists in this game). Hollins doesn’t have the tools to fix it.
There have been flashes of success. Allen had that on Parker in the final three minutes of regulation Saturday (which is why Manu had the ball in his hands).
But it doesn’t last.
San Antonio is smart about how they set this up — the big setting the pick is almost always whoever Zach Randolph is guarding. They have exposed his perimeter defense. But in Game 3 even when it was Marc Gasol’s man who came out, Parker blew past the defensive player of the year a couple times like he was a statue.
Memphis may win Game 4. They certainly have been close the last two games and with a couple breaks this could be a different series.
But they were not going to win it without solving the Parker puzzle. And they are not close.
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.
You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)
“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”
It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.
It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.
Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.
“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.