As they have done all season, the San Antonio Spurs rode the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard to another victory, going up 2-0 on the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. However, if you ask Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale, Leonard and the Spurs also got a lot of help from the refs.
“Kawhi shot more free throws than our whole team,” a frustrated Fizdale said during last night’s post-game conference. “It was a poorly officiated basketball game.
“I’m not going to let them treat us that way.”
After a slow start to the game—the Spurs held Memphis to just 16 points in the first quarter—Memphis was faced with a 19-point halftime deficit. Without the benefit of many shots at the charity stripe (Memphis shot just nine free throws in the second half), the Grizzlies stormed all the way back and brought the game to within four early in the fourth, only to sputter out and lose the game 96-82.
Heading back home, Memphis needs to reevaluate its gameplan if they want to have a chance in this series. The first thing they need to address? Leonard.
Kawhi has done whatever he has wanted to so far this series. After tying a then playoff career high in points in Game 1, Leonard set a new career high in game Game 2, scoring 37 points on 14 shots while going 19 for 19 from the line and grabbing 11 boards. If Memphis wants to get back into this series, they need to figure out how to stop, or at least slow Leonard down.
The Grizzlies also just need to play better defense in general. After posting a defensive rating of 107.1 in the regular season, no one on the team, aside from Zach Randolph and James Ennis, was able to match that in Game 2. In fact, Randolph, Ennis and Brandan Wright are the only Memphis players to at least match that number in the series. If they can’t even defend Kawhi’s teammates, how can they expect to stop the MVP candidate?
As for the Spurs, the team needs to play more consistently down the stretch. They cannot rely on Leonard’s heroics forever and Memphis’ near comeback should be a wake-up call.
“Our offense went in the toilet because of their great defense,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said when asked about the team’s play in the fourth quarter. “[Memphis] made a great run.”
Other than that, the team has played remarkably well. Tony Parker has shot 5-7 from three and has a true shooting percentage of .611 in the series so far.
“He’s in shape,” Popovich said.
The second unit, led by veteran Pau Gasol, has played extremely well like it did all season long.
The Spurs are deep and it’s going to take a near superhuman effort by the Grizzlies in order to take them down. However, the Grizzlies are capable of beating them, evidenced by their 2-2 record against San Antonio during the regular season.
Who Wins Game 3?
After falling short in Game 2, the Grizzlies desperately need a win in Game 3. Having gone 2-0 against the Spurs at home during the regular season though, the circumstances seem just right for Memphis to squeak out a win. In front of the home crowd—and a fired up Fizdale—the Grizzlies will (narrowly) get the job done in Game 3.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.