1. Will the Grizzlies repeat history?
Thirteen of the last 14 teams to win 60 games won at least one playoff series.
The lone exception: The 2011 Spurs, who earned the No. 1 seed with a 61-21 record then got stunned by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in six games.
Memphis still has four players – Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen (though Allen is injured) – from that epic upset. Those four have created a culture of toughness and tenacity that should still serve the underdogs well.
But the gap is far greater this year – 18 games using Pythagorean wins, as opposed to eight games in 2011.
Determination matters. So does talent, and San Antonio has more of that.
2. How will Memphis score?
The Spurs’ had the NBA’s best defense in the regular season. The Grizzles’ offense ranked 19th, worst among Western Conference playoff teams.
Memphis has actually become reasonable from the beyond the arc, hoisting and making 3-pointers at middling rates.
The Grizzlies just can’t finish at the rim. They rank last in the NBA, shooting 56.4% in the restricted area. And they’re reasonably selective with their attempts there.
That’s an indicator of Memphis’ lackluster athleticism, and San Antonio is darn tough to beat in methodical games.
The Grizzlies’ scoring issues won’t get any easier against an elite defender in Kawhi Leonard, a couple All-Defensive candidates in Danny Green and Dewayne Dedmon and Gregg Popovich’s ace scheming.
3. Will the Gasol Brothers bring intrigue to an otherwise dreary series?
The Spurs (27th) and and Grizzlies (28th) are among the NBA’s slowest-paced teams. The only slower playoff team is the Jazz, who rank 30th in pace. San Antonio and Memphis also emphasize defense.
This series will not feature high-flying, up-tempo, basketball.
But it has a cool storyline: Marc Gasol vs. Pau Gasol.
The brothers have had great careers, and neither is done yet. Marc is integral to the Grizzlies on both ends of the floor, and Pau comes off the bench for the Spurs. So, they might not be matched up much.
Still, the moments these go at each other will be a treat.