Defending the Los Angeles Clippers and the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder required strong defensive execution, to be sure, but Memphis only needed to prod and neutralize a few potent threats rather than many. They did so effectively, limiting both top shelf offenses to 99.9 points per 100 possessions.
But they weren't quite ready for their next test. San Antonio whipped the ball around the perimeter in Game 1, tallying 28 assists, a playoff-high 14 3-pointers and 105 points. Five Spurs finished in double-figures. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili only combined for 14 points and San Antonio still won by 22.
Neutralizing the San Antonio Spurs' offense will require a concerted defensive effort from every person on the floor. Each Spur is a weapon and each weapon cannot be left alone, even for a second. That differs vastly from their previous opponents, who relied extensively on the gifts of their best players. Memphis, as point guard Mike Conley noted postgame, simply needs to adjust.
"It is a huge adjustment," Conley said. "We are not going to play too many teams like the Spurs who don't just have one guy but more like 12 guys that can hurt you.They all make plays. They all can dribble-drive and make the three."
The Grizzlies were burned in the pick-and-roll. They were burned by misdirection. They were burned by Tony Parker (20 points and nine assists), Matt Bonner (12 points, four 3-pointers) and everyone in between. They didn't communicate, even Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol made several fatal defensive mistakes.
The adjustments don't stop on the defensive end. Zach Randolph finished with two points on 1-of-8 shooting. A lot of his struggles were his fault, but blame also has to be placed on his teammates for not moving the ball into advantageous parts of the floor to take advantage of San Antonio's aggressive defense. Quincy Pondexter (15 points, five 3-pointers) represented the only perimeter shooting threat. Tony Allen gambled often and unsuccessfully. Jerryd Bayless provided an uninspired offensive spark. If you look further down the line, there isn't any positives to show for their effort.
It all boils down to this: San Antonio is precise and creative while Oklahoma City and Los Angeles were aimless and unimaginative. The Grizzlies can't approach this series the same way and expect to win. It's a matter of apples and oranges.