The Western Conference Finals head to Tennessee as the Grizzlies will try to defend their home court after the San Antonio Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 series advantage by winning the first two games in San Antonio.
In Game 2, Memphis was overwhelmed in overtime. But by rallying late to force the OT, the Grizzlies responded well to the playoff pressure of the conference finals to reinforce a belief that they will be ready for the Spurs at home. The Grizzlies won both regular season matchups at the FedEx Forum and with a "We Believe" theme around town, the home crowd should be plenty amped to offer the Grizz additional motivation.
None of this should phase the veteran Spurs though, as they have an opportunity to seize the series and wipe away any hope Memphis maintains. Let's take a closer look at what is in store for Game 3:
1. Can Zach Randolph bring out Z-Bo?
While the solid play of Marc Gasol and Michael Conley may be more valuable to Memphis, Zach Randolph sets the tone for the Grizzlies, serving as the team's spine with his veteran savvy and toughness around the rim. When Z-Bo is feeling it, he can lift the level of play for the whole team. In Game 1, Z-Bo was missing in action as Randolph score just two points on one-of-eight shooting. In Game 2, Randolph responded with a far better effort, offering a solid Z-Bo performance with 15 points and 18 rebounds.
Randolph also logged 45 minutes in Game 2 as the Grizzlies went hard after the win. With a few odd days between games, fatigue shouldn't be an issue for Randolph, who needs to neutralize Tim Duncan and give another Z-Bo effort to keep the Grizz believing.
2. Can the Spurs maintain their edge on the road?
San Antonio maintained home court advantage with their overtime close-out in Game 2. A hostile environment awaits in Memphis, where the Grizzlies will try to hold serve on their home court and build off of their improved effort in the last game. The Spurs have been in worse situations over the years, including in the last round of the playoffs. After giving up a game at home and apparent momentum in their second-round series with Golden State, the Spurs went into the most hostile environment in the league at Oracle Arena and quieted the madness by beating the Warriors to regain control. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have seen it all at this point, so execution and effort will remain the keys to winning this game, regardless of the noise in the gym.
3. Can the Grizzlies' bench keep pace with the Spurs reserves?
Led by Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have a strong bench to deliver a second-unit boost. Matt Bonner and Gary Neal have showed up well in the playoffs to force teams to guard the arc when the reserves are on the court. Through two games, Ginobili has yet to give a big performance with just 15 total points in the two games. Meanwhile, the Memphis bench has been able to keep pace with strong production from Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless.
In Game 1, San Antonio won the bench-points battle, 44-38, as Bonner knocked down four three-pointers to add 12 points in the win. In Game 2, Memphis held a 34-24 edge off the bench with Bayless scoring 18 points, which put Memphis in position to win the game.
A big effort at home by Memphis can change the tone of the series, but they'll need those veteran big guys, Gasol and Randolph, to make a big impact around the rim to defend their home court. Here are the details for Game 3 on Saturday night.
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Odds: Grizzlies favored by 5.5 points