*Requires the Spurs to actually win in Memphis, which seems impossible at this point
After returning to the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs mustered a 13-point victory in Game 5 to push the Memphis Grizzlies to the brink of elimination.
While the victory wasn’t in the same fashion as Games 1 and 2, the Spurs displayed enough dominance at home on Tuesday night that hopefully some momentum carries over into the FedEx Forum for Game 6.
Here is what went right and wrong in Game 5:
1) Verdict: Failure – Technically, LaMarcus Aldridge got his fair share of shots. Tuesday night was more about the role players than superstars, as Aldridge finished the game going 5-for-13 from the field.
Aldridge’s field goal attempts may be trending downward from 14.6 a game to 11.6 during the postseason, but his usage rate is still on par with his regular season average. We’ll mark this adjustment as a failure, but only because of the poor shooting night.
2) Verdict: Failure – After Mike Conley’s abysmal performance in Game 1, the point guard is now averaging 27.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, while shooting 54 percent from the field and 48 percent on 3-pointers.
On the plus side, the Grizzlies had a defensive rating of 142.6 with Mike Conley off the floor in Game 5, so at least the Spurs took advantage of his absence while he was on the bench.
3) Verdict: Success – Davis Bertans logged 14 minutes in Game 5 after playing 10 minutes in Game 4. Though he wasn’t much of a force with his 1-for-5 shooting performance, Bertans managed to be the stretch-4 San Antonio needed to limit the Grizzlies’ rebounding advantage, while the Spurs used the extra floor space to ramp up their offense.
In seven minutes of action, the bench unit of Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol and Bertans had an offensive rating of 139.3, but a defensive rating of 145.3.
In addition to the proposition of more Simmons and less Ginobili, a Vintage Manu silenced that suggested adjustment. However, Simmons managed to see the floor to start the second quarter as Leonard’s primary backup and fared well in limited minutes.
Though they won by double digits, Game 5’s victory still isn’t the Spurs at their peak. With the series on the line and the FedEx Forum becoming an impossible place to win, here is what’s on tap for Game 6:
Aldridge has done an incredible job on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but he needs to morph into a bit of a bruiser in Game 6 if the Spurs want to escape Memphis with a win. The duo of Gasol and Randolph are averaging nearly 33 points and 14 rebounds per game with those numbers likely to balloon in an elimination game at home.
Look for the Grizzlies to work out of the post early and often with how much the Spurs tried double teaming the frontcourt duo. If Aldridge and
David Lee any other big man on the roster can hold their ground without help, it will help limit the open looks to James Ennis and JaMychal Green, who went a combined 8-for-17 from the field, including 5-for-11 from beyond the arc in Game 5.
If trying to out grit-n-grind Memphis on the defensive end fails, then…
DIE BY THE 3
As our very own Collin Reid mentioned on Tuesday, the quartet of Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker have been abysmal from 3-point land in Memphis, combining to go 0-for-20 during the road portion of this series. On Tuesday night, they went 5-for-10.
The Grizzlies defend well on the perimeter, but as Memphis has shortened their rotation to eight players, Gregg Popovich has expanded his out of necessity to include more shooters and athleticism. A gang of shooters on the floor could force David Fizdale into some funky rotations, especially if a physical Spurs squad can create early foul trouble.
Chances of the Spurs getting another stellar combined 30-point performance from Mills and Ginobili are slim, but the best regular season 3-point shooting team in the NBA should have a never-ending green light to bury the Grizzlies.