The San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Finals to earn the opportunity to play the Memphis Grizzlies this Sunday for Game 1.
The Spurs and Grizzlies are no strangers to each other as the teams faced off in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs in the first round. The Grizzlies triumphed over the Spurs in 6 games and San Antonio hasn't been shy in saying they haven't forgotten that experience.
This season the teams meet each other with the winner heading to the NBA Finals against whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies have looked dominant lately and the Spurs will need to top these two categories to have the edge in this series.
The Spurs are have not been a good rebounding team during the regular season and for a good reason. San Antonio has been a solid defensive rebounding team but has suffered on the offensive end. While some see that as a weakness, the Spurs were such a good shooting and scoring team in the regular season and didn't need to offensive rebound as much as other teams.
In their last 5 games against the Golden State Warriors, they've averaged 44.8rpg while the Grizzlies have averaged 42.8rpg in the same number of games. The Spurs were outrebounded in the series against the Golden State Warriors (47.8rpg) due to their speed and versatility while the Grizzlies were outrebounded by a less athletic frontcourt with not much depth in the Oklahoma City Thunder (43.4rpg). The Spurs have the depth to match the Grizzlies with Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and (if they choose to go small) Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 8.4rpg this postseason.
The Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay for Tayshaun Prince this season, but the bigs are still the focal point of their offense. Marc Gasol is averaging 18.3ppg this posteason and Zach Randolph's averaging 19.7ppg alongside him. The majority of the scoring is coming from the paint and that was one of the reasons why the Spurs fell to this team two years ago. Tiago Splitter showed some toughness against the Grizzlies this season as a starter and that's something they'll need in this series.
San Antonio has to match toughness against Memphis for them to win this series. They have the advantage on overall versatility with Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw in the lineup, but wearing out the Memphis bigs when they're on defense and defending them with toughness will be key for the Spurs.
The Spurs have a shot against the lower seeded Grizzlies, but they'll need to dominate these two categories to get out of this series and head to the NBA Finals. There's other categories the Spurs need to thrive in including shooting, but these two will determine if they'll have some breathing room during the series and will also dictate how the team plays on the other side of the floor.