The Memphis Grizzlies are cooking, and the San Antonio Spurs may not have the right ingredients to catch up. No first-round series since 2008's Celtics-Hawks set has been as improbable as this match-up, with the Grizzlies holding a 2-1 series lead. Should Memphis pull off the victory, it'd be the biggest upset since 2007's Warriors-Mavericks series, but maybe bigger. That Warriors team seemed to fly out of nowhere, and took down the league's best team. The Spurs are frankly a step below those Mavs, but Golden State has Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson. These Grizzlies have Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. It's a bizarre team in a bizarre situation.
The Spurs are supposed to be too solid, too resourceful to get clubbed by an inferior foe, but perhaps that's part of the Grizzlies' advantage: they are too weird to conquer by conventional means. The Spurs defend three-pointers amazingly well, and rebound, and don't foul, and score in the paint. Memphis doesn't shoot three-pointers, kills the offensive glass and scores even more in paint. They are like a Spurs' antibiotic, in the sense that the antibiotic uses some dead bacteria to cure the virus. (Note: I did not go to medicial school, and still don't know what causes a virus vs. a non-virus illness. I should read the posters in the doc's office more carefully. Sports!)
Zach Randolph used the force in Game 3, and no one is convinced the Spurs are prepared to stop it. The smart solution -- as our own Sebastian Pruiti has written a few times -- is to drop a second defender onto Z-Bo in the post. But San Antonio is resisting this strategy! Gregg Popovich is as astute as they come, and must be worried about something other than Z-Bo dousing San Antonio with fire in the paint. But it's a glaring issue, especially with the Spurs getting closer and closer to being on the ropes.
On the other end, Tony Parker is coming under some amount of criticism; he's shooting just 34 percent from the field, and is quite plainly being outplayed by Mike Conley -- that Mike Conley -- in a playoff series. That's not something you want on your resumé. What the Spurs will do to help wake Parker (a former Finals MVP) remains to be seen; I vote for something sudden and jarring.