The San Antonio Spurs booked their place in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 with a brilliantly executed sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
The Spurs have been there four times in the Tim Duncan era and won all four times doing exactly what they did they did against Memphis, simply overpowering teams. Greg Popavich’s typical understated summary of it to his opposing coach immediately after the final buzzer, saying “we just made a few plays that was the only difference,” is emblematic of what San Antonio is. They are the quiet, humble team that goes about their business in a way that doesn’t necessarily make headlines or invigorate fans from around the league to pull for them, but they are methodical, ruthless and ever talented.
In the end, Memphis really did a lot of things right. They significantly outrebounded San Antonio in game four and were impressive on the offensive boards in particular. They created plenty of second chance points to help compensate for their poor shooting, they created more turnovers than they committed and they hit their free throws for the most part, but it wasn’t enough.
The Spurs hit shot after shot to end a Memphis run and answered with defensive plays when needed. They got down court faster than Memphis and were never caught off guard on either end of the floor. Tony Parker was the major thorn in the Grizzlies side, dropping 37 points and 6 assists. For the series, he averaged 24.5 points and 9.5 assists as he had an answer for everything Mike Conley threw at him.
But it was also the tedious work of Duncan and Tiago Splitter down low in limiting Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to a combined average of 25 points in the series, down from 37 against Oklahoma City. While both increased their rebound numbers, their scoring punch being so limited was enough to make a major difference in the series and allowed the Spurs to complete their sweep.
Analysis of this series can be summed up pretty quick and was by ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy right after the game. The Grizzlies gave a great effort, but they were simply beat by a better team. The Spurs are a force, spearheaded by Parker, probably the least appreciated superstar point guard in the NBA.
San Antonio now has a week off to rest their bodies and prepare for either Miami or Indiana. Giving Popavich a chance to work on strategy for that long and having Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili with fresh legs points to the Spurs having a fantastic chance to go 5-0 in the NBA Finals in the Duncan era, all they have to do now is complete the mission. Will Duncan join Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on the list of active players with 5 rings? We shall see.