The San Antonio Spurs knew game 2 was going to be much harder, and they weren’t wrong. They scored only 9 points in the fourth quarter as Tony Parker, excellent in his passing (not his shooting) for most of the game ran out of steam at some point. Luckily for them, Tim Duncan was there to take the scoring on his shoulders in overtime, while being fantastic on defense all game long.
The Memphis Grizzlies needed a little bit of flopping from Tony Allen to draw a flagrant foul which led the Grizzlies to tie the game at 85 and sent it to overtime. However, once again, they struggled in making life too hard for Parker (who finished with 18 assists) while struggled all throughout the game when Tim Duncan was on the floor, especially in overtime when he scored six straight points and set up the stage for a 2-0 lead.
While statistics show that teams with a 2-0 lead go on to win more than 90% of the series, the Spurs remember what happened last year against the Oklahoma City Thunder. A 2-0 lead seemed to be erased in no time, as the Thunder simply outran the Spurs all the way to the NBA finals, winning four consecutive games after dropping the first two games. The Memphis Grizzlies can’t outrun and outgun the Spurs in the same way; they don’t have the talent. But they can play the kind of grinding basketball we saw from them in Game 2, which helped them beat the Clippers in the first round.
Unlike in game 1, the Grizzlies did a great job in stopping Tony Parker and generally the Pick & Roll. The Spurs’ ball handlers on those plays shot only 23.1% from the field while turning the ball over 26.3% of the time. However, Tony Parker was smart enough to lay off some shots (not enough, finishing with a terrible 6-20 from the field) and finish with a playoff career high of 18 assists, and the Spurs were once again very good on spot-up shooting, assisting on 29 of their 36 field goals, and hitting on 50% of their spot-up shooting, including 53.8% from beyond the arc.
But there was also Tim Duncan. More often than not, the minutes Tiago Splitter plays make the difference between a regular and a very good defensive performance from San Antonio. This time, he played 34 minutes, something he isn’t used to be doing, and looked a bit weary during later stages in the game. Duncan was in foul trouble for parts of it, but did finish with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. And those blocks were the important part of the game, as it seemed the Grizzlies had those moments in which the game seemed to belong to them, including in the fourth, winning 21-9 in the final period.
When Duncan was on the floor, Memphis were only 4-of-24 from inside 5-feet, including a sequence of 7 consecutive layups they either missed by themselves or were blocked on. Without him on the floor (he played 40 minutes), they were 9-of-14. In overtime, they were only 1-of-5, as both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol shot only 33.3% from the field, leaving it up to Tony Allen to try and win the game, only he isn’t the kind of player who can do it, hitting only two of his 11 field goal attempts.
Things will get harder from here: the Grizzlies are much more aggressive at home, and Randolph is bound to have a more explosive night at some point, which pretty much changes the whole interface of the team’s offense. As long as the Spurs manage to keep Duncan away from foul trouble and not too exhausted as the series winds down, they should still be slight favorites to at least get one win in Memphis.