AT&T Center – Coming into Game 1 of the San Antonio Spurs’ Western Conference playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Memphis big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were averaging a combined 38 points, 17.2 rebounds, 13 Free throw attempts, shooting 49% from the field, and drawing 12.8 fouls per game.
After 48 minutes of Game 1 and the Grizzlies falling by 22 points, Gasol and Randolph finished with a combined 17 points, 14 rebounds, 2 free throw attempts, and shot 29% from the field.
“We tried to play aggressive especially on Marc and Zach,” said Spurs forward Tiago Splitter after the game. “Just try to deny them. Whenever they got the ball, everybody was closing a little bit too. The smalls help us a lot too.”
“I thought we worked hard. Zach and Marc are a heck of a combination,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the game, “probably the best high-low combination in the league, and guarding them on the block without the high-low is tough enough, but everything they do is really difficult to stick with, and you’ve got to have a mindset to do it on every down.
“Well, first of all, they played better than us in every area,” said Grizzlies head coach Lionell Hollins after the game, “and that included fronting the post and keeping us from going inside as much as we wanted to.”
Fronting the post is something this Spurs teams has had experience with dating back to the first round, when they played the post-oriented injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers whose only two stars were big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
“Of course, it’s a little bit different than the Warriors,” said Splitter of playing the Grizzlies. “Of course playing against those bigs help us enough,” finished Splitter on playing the Lakers.
“They’re different bigs but they’re both post teams with great bigs,” continued Spurs guard Cory Joseph on the Memphis-Lakers comparisons. “It helped us prepare for this series because it’s kind of like the same thing.”
“It helped a lot,” said Spurs guard Danny Green of facing the Lakers in round one. “It’s a very similar type series. A similar type team with inside presence that they have, (but) we’ve got to continue to do the same type of things that we did in the Lakers series but even better, since they’re obviously in this series for a reason.”
"Memphis is a post-team like the Lakers first round," added Kawhi Leonard.
Individually, the Spurs held Randolph to 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting. Randolph never even got to attempt a free throw.
“We tried to make it hard on him,” said Spurs guard Tony Parker after the game, “double-team. Obviously he’s their best scorer. He’s a beast inside.”
“With their big guys, we want to try to run them a little bit,” said Joseph, “get them tired.”
“They front us, they pressured the ball,” said Gasol after the game, “they pushed us out of the box. They did a lot of things.”
The Spurs’ defense did almost exactly what they did to the Lakers’ big men. The big men were working to make sure Howard and Gasol never got in their favored positions and the perimeter players helped with double-teams and forced it out of the big men’s hands and made the Lakers’ guards try to beat them, just like the Spurs did to Memphis on Sunday.
Quincy Pondexter led the Grizzlies with 17 points and made 5-of-9 three pointers, but the Spurs will live with that as long as the ball stayed out of Randolph’s hands since they ended up winning by more than 20 points.
"It's a team effort” said Spurs forward Matt Bonner of limiting the Grizzlies big men. “Their big guys are very big, strong and talented. It’s almost impossible to stop them with just one guy. It starts with the person matched up on them, moving our feet and making them work for everything.”
"The bigs did a wonderful job,” continued Manu Ginobili on the Spurs’ defense of Randolph. “We didn’t give him easy catches.”
"Our bigs were real active on him,” said Tim Duncan of the Spurs’ defense on Randolph. “We knew what he wanted to do.”
"We just give him a lot of respect,” said Boris Diaw, “Nothing special. (We) just don't let him get easy catches."
“They were disrupting my rhythm,” said Randolph after the game. “It was just one of those nights.”
When asked if the Spurs’ defense didn’t allow him to get the touches, Randolph responded, “I wouldn’t say that. I took seven shots tonight so I wouldn’t say that. A lot of my shots were just off. I didn’t get the good looks I wanted to.”
“I just have to do better,” said Randolph after the game. “Like I told my teammates, I have to do better for them.”
“He tried to apologize but we would not accept that,” Mike Conley said of Randolph after the game. “It is not just him, it is all of us.”
“He is not going to get down,” continued Conley on Randolph. “He is going to be angry and more ready to go. I have no doubt in my mind he is going to be ready to go.”
“We know he’s not going to play like that every game,” said Parker of Randolph. “It’s just sometimes it happens. He had an off night, but I’ve known Zach for a long time. We’re from the same draft, and I know he’s going to come out strong in Game 2. Our bigs did a good job and are going to have to do a good job in Game 2.”
“He’s going to be much better in games to come," finished Duncan on Randolph.
Randolph most likely will do better as the series continues, but like Pau Gasol and Howard, the Spurs’ defense is prepared and equipped to deal with a dominant post-duo like the Grizzlies have.
True, the Grizzlies aren’t the Lakers, but after one game, this series is headed in the same direction of Los Angeles-San Antonio.