GRITGRINDGRIZZ: Playoff Preview

Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com | 4/14/2016, 1:33 p.m.
Beaten up, patchwork Grizzlies prepare for The Perfect Basketball Machine.
The Grizzlies hung on and scratched their way into the NBA Playoffs, where they will have their backs against the wall facing the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Sometimes, history is one of those things that fades into memory almost as quickly as it’s made.

Kobe Bryant is now officially a once-was, as the NBA legend played his final game, scoring 60 points in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. And the Golden State Warriors became the winningest team in NBA history, with a 125-104 victory over your Memphis Grizzlies.

Poof! And just like that, before you can bask in that glow, all attention turns to the NBA Playoffs, which begin Sunday.

At TSD press time, no schedules had been announced. Memphis found out they were a lock for the playoffs a week ago, and now we know the opponent: The Perfect Basketball Machine, the San Antonio Spurs.

Ouch.

The ideal matchup would have been against the L.A. Clippers, the team Grizz fans love to hate. The next best matchup would have been the Oklahoma City Thunder, another chapter in a great playoff rivalry. I’d have been OK with slipping to the eighth seed for a first rounder with the Warriors, because, well, history.

But nope. It’s the Spurs. A team we can’t really call a rival, because ever since Memphis upset them in Round 1 in the 2011 Playoffs, the Grizzlies have simply had no answer – in the regular season or the playoffs.

Since Memphis won that series 4-2, the Spurs have gone 16-4 in the regular season against Memphis – a number which includes sweeping all four games this season, but doesn’t include sweeping the Grizzlies in the 2013 Western Conference Finals.

Again, ouch.

This is a Grizzlies team that couldn’t beat the Spurs with a healthy roster that included Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies will be limping into this series losing 13 of their past 16 games.

Arguably, the lone advantage the Grizzlies might have will be their relative unpredictability – shutting down Memphis isn’t simply crowding Zach and Marc while waiting for three-pointers to miss. Lance Stephenson drives to the basket, and Matt Barnes, Vince Carter and others actually can knock down threes.

The first two games are in San Antonio, with the first two Memphis games the following weekend. Fans will wave their growl towels, and the Forum will be rocking. “Don’t Stop Believing” will blare through the jumbotron. Playoff basketball is still fun.

But in the end, Spurs gonna Spur. They’ll look at tape, devise their plan, and then surgically dissect the Grizzlies. And even if they weren’t the Perfect Basketball Machine, the Spurs simply have more firepower, and the Grizzlies often struggle to score.

See, all that makes me sound like I’m jumping off the bandwagon, when all I’m doing is stating facts. The Grizzlies will be hard pressed to steal a single win off the Spurs. I’m a homer, so I’ll go ahead and claim that one win.

But sooner or later (probably sooner), the Spurs will mercifully put this weird, injury-plagued season out of its misery. If you’ve got tickets to the two Memphis games, enjoy them – the next time you see the Grizzlies will be this fall.