In a repeat of last year’s Western conference finals, the Memphis Grizzlies, wanting to prove they still haven’t peaked, meet the San Antonio Spurs, trying to show that the veteran core of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan has at least one more title run left in them.
The Spurs swept the Grizzlies in the playoffs before losing in 7 games to the Miami Heat despite holding a 3-2 lead going into game 6 and a promising lead in the final minutes of that game’s fourth quarter. Obviously, the flesh and internal wounds from that collapse are still affecting the Spurs, but they insist that it provides motivation for them to try and pull off another season with at least 50 wins, not to mention another deep playoff run.
The Spurs’ only major addition in the offseason was Marco Belinelli, hopefully adding some much needed outside shooting that isn’t solely about being a spot up scorer. It fixes some issues of a weak backup point guard spot, while Manu Ginobili, the man who looked more crushed than anyone about how the series against the Heat ended, is back to prove there’s still some basketball left in him after signing a new two-year deal.
Another important re-signing was that of Tiago Splitter, who might have had a disappointing Finals series, but his form in the regular season allowed Tim Duncan to thrive and once again perform like one of the best big men in the NBA.
However, the two players who might be the best for the Spurs this season will probably be Tony Parker, who needs some rest after a busy summer with the French team, and Kawhi Leonard, who needs to take another step forward from role player into borderline All-Star player, especially on offense.
The Grizzlies added Mike Miller, Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes in order to improve their weak bench, hoping that last season wasn’t a peak before the fall. The Grizzlies reached the conference final for the first time in franchise history, mostly thanks to arguably the best defense in the NBA, but need something more than toughness and defense in order to reach the same milestone once again and perform better at it in six months.
The Grizzlies have lost their last 8 games against the Spurs, with Zach Randolph having a particulary difficult time against Duncan and Splitter, averaging only 11 points while shooting 30.2% in the conference finals last season.
Predictions – Both teams haven’t drastically improved compared to last season, a piece here and there. Just like last year, the Spurs should have enough by the end of the game to pull off the opening night win.