Manu Ginobili’s elbow didn’t lose them 6 straight in March. Their lack of size didn’t win them 61 games in the regular season. Lackluster bench production didn’t hinder them in a 30 point win versus Miami two months ago.
So for the San Antonio Spurs there are no excuses for the team that was supposedly the best in the league up until the last two months of the regular season and now the postseason. Not Antonio McDyess’s health, not Manu’s health, nothing.
Sure the Memphis Grizzlies might be a tough matchup due to their up-tempo play and never say die attitude. But here are two reasons why that shouldn’t matter.
1. The San Antonio Spurs are former 4-time NBA Champs. They’ve been in tough situations before and the experience of Tim Duncan, Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gregg Poppovich should be more than enough to handle the young Grizzlies and their rookie head coach.
The Spurs played in and won a tough seven game series against the Detroit Pistons for title number three. They’ve overcome Kobe Bryant’s Lakers when they were seeking their fourth straight title. They engaged in battles with the Phoenix Suns and came out on top of every war. So how can they not take care of playoff rookies Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Sam Young? Even with Tony Allen and Shane Battier’s battle tested playoff resumes they’re not the Spurs.
2. The Spurs do realize that Rudy Gay, Memphis’s best player, isn’t playing right?
Gay is missing the rest of the regular season and the playoffs with a dislocated shoulder that will take 6 months to heal. Even with Battier’s defensive presence taking his place the Spurs should be able to take advantage of his absence and focus more of Zach Randolph and others defensively.
Instead the Spurs have been collapsing defensively. They allowed Memphis to shoot 55% in a game one loss, Zach Randolph is averaging 20+ a game in the series, Mike Conley has been outplaying Parker, the Spurs have been turning the ball over more than Memphis, and late in games the Grizzlies have been looking like the former champions while the Spurs have been wilting under the light.
Now on the eve of Monday’s must win game 4, the Spurs are still trying to awake from a coma that the Lakers suffered in game 1 versus New Orleans but have overcome, and that Dallas is currently struggling with versus Portland.
It has to start on the defensive end. Parker and George Hill have to contain Mike Conley, and the bigs of San Antonio have to overpower the bigs of Memphis. The Spurs have been out rebounding the Grizzlies but Randolph and Marc Gasol have been beating up on Duncan, McDyess and Dejuan Blair and San Antonio’s small interior. McDyess and Blair off the bench have to assert themselves and control the paint on both ends of the floor to give the Spurs a chance to even up the series.
Also, Richard Jefferson has to come out of hiding.
His 4 point, 5 rebound laugher last game can’t be replicated. His game has to step up past the 11 point, 5 rebound a game clip that it’s currently at and he has to take his game to another level to alleviate the pressure from Parker, Ginobili and Duncan offensively.
The Spurs have had their backs to the wall before, but this might be a different task than the ones asked of them before.
Tomorrow night they enter a hostile and loud environment at the FedEx Forum and face a young and hungry team desperate to make themselves known and that will be taking it to the Spurs for 48 full minutes.
But these are the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve played these types of games and know what it takes to come out on top. If these are the Spurs I know then tomorrow night they’ll be leaving Memphis tied at 2. It doesn’t matter who is injured, who is struggling or that they’re too small inside. For the Spurs there are no excuses.