In a playoff series that feels like a first round deja vu (it kinda is), the Memphis Grizzlies will try to make game 1 the basis of a massive upset against the heavily favored San Antonio Spurs.
Expectations: The Spurs are in it to win the whole thing, something the franchise hasn’t done, ever, without Tim Duncan on the roster. For the Grizzlies, the end game and indication of success is a lot less grand, though they always present themselves in a way that makes you believe that if they’re capable of making a series into their kind of basketball, nothing is out of the question.
Stars: Easy for the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard. The real MVP in my opinion. The best defensive player in the league, while taking another step offensively, averaging 25.5 points per game this season. Unlike last year’s playoffs, the Spurs are hoping it’s not too much of a burden for him. Mike Conley scores the most points for the Grizzlies, but this team’s best player (star is not the correct word when speaking about someone in Memphis) is Marc Gasol, who’ll be facing off against his older brother in this series, something that has never happened in a playoff series.
Hired help: The Spurs are always about what’s behind their best player. LaMarcus Aldridge is getting older but is a lot more comfortable in Spurs uniform. Patty Mills is probably their best point guard, Pau Gasol a terrific asset and Tony Parker still capable of going off on some nights. It’s more about the system than the names. For the Grizzlies, Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green, Tony Allen and Vince Carter will lend a hand. Nothing fancy, but effective.
Prediction: The Grizzlies are a smart, tough team, but the Spurs are leaps and bounds better than them, almost every time. In a series that feels like a close sweep, the Spurs will take game 1.