The San Antonio Spurs dominated the NBA for much of the 2010-11 season, and only on the campaign's final day did the team lose the best record in the league. Despite that -- 61 wins in all, and the top seed in the West's NBA playoffs bracket -- the Memphis Grizzlies seemed to want the Spurs in the first round. The Grizzlies all but tanked in the team's last two games, as Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, the team's most important (healthy) players, sat. Lionel Hollins added Mike Conley to the DNP-CD crew on Wednesday against the Clippers. With a win over those Clippers, Memphis would have claimed the No. 7 seed and avoided the Spurs.
But the Grizzlies tanked, to avoid the Lakers and get the Spurs. DRAMA.
Middling. The Grizzlies have never won a playoff game, but this incarnation has some good postseason veterans, including Allen (who played quite a bit in Boston's Finals run last season), Shane Battier (38 career playoff games) and ... OK, it's pretty slim beyond that. Randolph had one meaningful playoff series as a youngster eight years ago; Conley, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur and O.J. Mayo will be baptized this weekend. The Spurs, on the other hand? Tim Duncan has four NBA titles. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have three. The three have a combined 419 playoff games between them.
Expect Conley to have at least one booming game; he's among the league's top thiefs, and he's earned his early contract extension (so far). San Antonio has a solid defense, but Conley can keep Parker on his heels a bit. Allen will earn some attention, too; he has to guard Manu, which means he'll have a lot of eyes on him.
On the other side? Just about everyone has been anointed already. If you'd forgotten about George Hill, study up.
HINTS FOR THE FUTURE
Plenty have doubted the Spurs all year because of the weight of the grind of a long season and the team's age, and a recent bad losing streak only fanned that opinion. If San Antonio struggles to put away Memphis, that will be cause for alarm. Duncan, in particular, needs to be on his game to deal with potential future opponent L.A.
MAINSTREAM MEME ALERT
San Antonio in five. I believe the eulogies for the Spurs are seriously premature, and I think San Antonio has too much depth to submit. Hill and Gary Neal, in particular, could shred the Grizzlies' backcourt reserves, and I don't trust Conley and Allen to have multiple big offensive games. Randolph might average 30-20, but the Spurs have much more overall talent.