The eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies continue their march towards history as they host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night. This best-of-seven series is tied at 1-1 as it moves to Memphis.
The Don Best odds screen has the Grizzlies as two-point favorites in their first home playoff game since 2006. The total is 192 points and ESPN will broadcast from FedExForum at 4:30 p.m. (PT).
An NBA eighth seed has only eliminated a No. 1 three times in history. The latest was the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors, which beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games despite losing 25 more contests during the regular season.
The Grizzles finished 46-36 straight-up this regular season, 15 games behind San Antonio (61-21 SU). The Spurs were also 36-5 SU at home, but that didn’t stop Memphis from a 101-98 opening road win last Sunday as 6 ½-point underdogs.
San Antonio was playing without Manu Ginobili, who sprained his right elbow in the regular season finale. Memphis’ big man tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 49 points and 23 rebounds, with the team shooting 55.2 percent from the floor. It was the first playoff win for the expansion franchise, debuting in Vancouver in 1995.
Ginobili did play in Game 2 on Wednesday, scoring a team-high 17 points despite wearing a bulky brace. Memphis shot a much more pedestrian 39.8 percent from the field, but only trailed by two points (89-87) after a Sam Young three-pointer with 14 seconds left. Memphis lost 93-87, but ‘covered’ for the second straight game as eight-point ‘dogs.
The 180-points scored went ‘under’ the 194 ½-point total. Game 1’s 199 points went ‘over’ the 196 ½-point total. The ‘over’ is 21-8 in San Antonio’s last 29 games overall.
The Grizzlies were 30-11 SU and 26-14-1 ATS at home during the regular season. That includes 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS to end the season. They’re the NBA’s best ATS team overall (54-29-1).
Memphis has done a great job shaking off the injury to second-leading scorer Rudy Gay (19.8 PPG). He was lost for the year in February with a dislocated shoulder. Young and Tony Allen are now starting at the wing positions, with Mike Conley running things from the point.
Coach Lionel Hollins has built a solid bench with the help of GM Chris Wallace. The gritty Shane Battier was a great addition at the trade deadline. O.J. Mayo is a key player after almost being traded and Darrell Arthur is a decent big man option.
The Spurs (44-38-2 ATS) haven’t had anything come easy for them lately. They had a six-game losing streak beginning in late March with Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker all missing at least one game. They did hold onto the No. 1 seed in the West, but finished behind Chicago for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Coach Gregg Popovich deserves a lot of Coach of the Year consideration. His nucleus was considered too old for a title, but he used a very deep bench to score 103.7 PPG (sixth in the NBA). Three-point shooting was a big factor (39.7 percent made, ranked first).
The problem in the playoffs is rotations tighten and superior depth is not that much of an advantage. Duncan also no longer dominates fourth quarters like in his youth and Ginobili needs to be healthy to help fill that role.
San Antonio was 25-16 SU and 25-15-1 ATS on the road this year, but struggled down the stretch at 1-6 SU (3-4 ATS).
The two days off should theoretically help the Spurs aging players, but they’re just 5-12 ATS on two days rest this season. Their inside guys will need their energy as Memphis leads the league in points in the paint and won’t settle for jumpers at home.
Game 4 will be played Monday in Memphis with San Antonito really in a bind with a Saturday defeat.