The San Antonio Spurs must beat the Memphis Grizzlies tonight on the road, or their path out of the playoffs is as slippery as a Slip ‘n Slide.
Win and the series is 2-2 heading back home to San Antonio. Lose and Memphis has a commanding 3-1 lead in a series where they have been the more physical team.
We said coming into this series that it could be tough on San Antonio because it was a bad matchup — what the Spurs want to do is shoot three pointers or get their buckets in the paint, and stop you from doing those very two things.
Problem is, outside of Richard Jefferson (10-for-18) nobody on the Spurs is knocking down threes — they are shooting 32 percent as a team (down from 39 percent in the regular season).
And Memphis’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have dominated the paint. On both ends. Memphis is still getting quality points from its big men — they have combined to average 37.7 points per game this series — and Memphis is owning the offensive glass. As for the Spurs defending the three, the Grizzlies don’t really care about that anyway. They don’t shoot many.
At some point, the Spurs are going to have to drop the extra defender into the paint and give up the perimeter shots. That may cost them, but they are not winning the way things are going now.
If the Spurs are going to win this, their guards are going to have to dominate. Tony Parker is shooting 34 percent for the series and being held in check by Mike Conley. Manu Ginobili has been good attacking and getting to the line, he has created chances, but he has got to knock down more than 20 percent of his threes and 40 percent of his shots overall.
For the first half of the season, the Spurs were the best team in basketball. They are not that team right now, the execution on the offensive end that made them so impressive has gone missing. Their three point shooting is on walkabout. The Grizzlies have taken away and contested the corner three that the Spurs so dearly love and San Antonio has not made them pay for that with buckets in the paint.
These are the Spurs. It’s been a while since the glory years but you still expect the execution, them beating you how they want to beat you. Not this series. The Grizzlies have dictated the terms and played it their way. Physical.
That will change Monday night, or the Spurs are on the Slip ‘n Slide right out of the playoffs.