Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 11:40 am

O.J. Mayo's goggles and guns motion

Mayo makes goggles into guns as he shoots down Spurs in Game 4. 
Posted by Matt Moore

O.J. Mayo, after nailing a huge 3-pointer in the Grizzlies' huge Game 4 win Monday night, decided to have some fun with the "3 goggles" trend sweeping the league (started in Portland):

The question is if that constituted a "threatening gesture" or not.  If you'll remember, the NBA fined DeShawn Stevenson for making a "throat slash" gesture , and Paul Pierce was fined for something even more innocuous. Since Mayo's technically imitating guns, the NBA in its notorious sensitivity could wind up taking a glance at this. 

We hope not, since this was a pretty innovative approach to the "3-goggles" gesture started in Portland and sweeping the NBA. It's good to see Mayo with his swagger back after what has been a pretty disruptive season.

(Via John C. Townsend on Twitter .)
Posted on: April 25, 2011 11:55 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 12:30 am

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Spurs: Blues City rising

Memphis takes 3-1 series lead over Spurs in stunning fashion: a blowout. 
Posted by Matt Moore

If you're the type of person who believes one game can save, or change the course of a franchise, then this game may end up as one that lives forever in the history of the Memphis Grizzlies

If you're the type of person who believes one game can end a dynasty, then this game may live in infamy in the history of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Regardless of what kind of person you are, the result is the same. 104-86. The 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies now hold a 3-1 advantage over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. And the score isn't even indicative of how much of a runaway it was in the second half. The odds of the Spurs coming back to win this series are now somewhere between terrible and nonexistent. A team lead by Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan is as capable as any of coming out and staging the comeback against an inexperienced Memphis squad who may be feeling too good about themselves, though. There's still a heartbeat in San Antonio.

But it sure wasn't there in the second half. Mostly because the Grizzlies came out and put them into cardiac arrest. The cool, calm composure we've seen from San Antonio so many times in years past? Gone, in a flash of panicked scrambling for loose balls that time and time again proved unsuccessful. The Grizzlies scrapped for every loose ball...

You know what? Let's pause right there. 

In basketball, saying you scrapped for loose balls is often synonymous with the college athlete diving out of bounds to try and save a possession. That that so rarely happens in the NBA is due to the gap in athleticism and ability. Players can much more easily swoop in and collect the ball, springing the outlet pass and scoring, rather than needlessly diving. This is mistaken for a lack of effort in the NBA but in reality, it's just a knowledge of what you can and cannot collect. What the Grizzlies have done in this series is not that. They have actually scrapped for every loose ball, in the sense that in that moment, that rare time span in between the release and catch of the ball, the Grizzlies attacked every single one. The Grizzlies dove into passing lanes, swiped at the catch to prevent possession (negating the foul), then immediately hawked. In the NBA you can defend the possession or you can defend the ball. The great defenses in the league typically defend the position, moving in for charges, cutting off driving lanes, and forcing low efficiency shots. The Grizzlies are the rare great defense that attacks the ball. That 3-pointer we talked about so much in the preview? The Spurs wound up 5-18, because every good look they got was attacked by a swiping hand, forcing it just a bit off to create enough time for the shooter to close. The Spurs wound up with a 19.5 turnover ratio. So on two of every ten Spurs possessions, they simply gave it to the Grizzlies. Seven of their 17 turnovers came in the third quarter, which saw Memphis simply blow the doors off. 

As for the offense? The Grizzlies may never see that kind of lofty shooting again. 53.7 effective field goal percentage for Memphis, which factors their 41 percent 3-point shooting, this for a team that shot a 49 effective field goal percentage in the regular season and averaged hitting just 3.8 out of 11.3 3-pointers per game. They had everything working. The Grizz started working the pick and roll early, driving and kicking. They worked the ball inside, made great interior passes, and routed the Spurs by attacking, getting into the bonus early. By the fourth quarter, they nailed two more threes. The big difference maker offensively was representative of these upstart Grizzlies. Darrell Arthur. Arthur wound up with 14 points off 7-10 shooting. The Spurs dared him to hit from mid-range, obviously not having scouted that that's what Arthur does. 

Earlier this season I visited Memphis and asked to speak with Arthur pre-game about his improvement. The P.R. staff told me he wouldn't be available until right before gametime. Not unusual, a lot of players don't talk pre-game. But the staff told me it was because since no one usually wanted to talk to him, he would shoot right up until the last minute when he had to head to the locker room. Sure enough, there was Arthur, working the mid-range jumper relentlessly with two-ball boys. I found out he does that nearly every game. Arthur punished the Spurs in the third quarter. Then in the fourth, Arthur came over on a huge block, then immediately sprinted ahead of the Spurs' slow, plodding defense. An alley-oop later, and the Grizzlies lead was 16, less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. 

Gregg Popovich capitulated early in the fourth quarter, pulling his reserves and submitting that the game was over, something he's done often in the regular season when defeat seems certain. But down 2-1, to pull the best players that have helped win you four championships? That's daring, even for Pop. 

Memphis hit an emotional high Monday night, while the Spurs may never have been lower. This series isn't over, no series is over until that fourth win is cemented. But you got the feeling amid a raucous crowd in a city that's had so many years of disappointment and so many low attendance nights, with the Spurs a victim of poor defense and reliance on perimeter shooting after a decade of pounding the rock, that maybe Game 4 was more than just another chapter. 

Maybe it was history. 
Posted on: April 25, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:41 pm

Series reset: Spurs backed into a corner

The Grizzlies lead the series 2-1. But surely the Spurs respond like they always have... except, they've never done it in this specific situation before. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: Alright, it's been fun, Memphis.  You've made some noise. But this is where champions come out and take care of business. This is what the Spurs do. They right the ship and take care of this thing... 

Except the Spurs haven't done this before. Ever. The Duncan-era Spurs have never won a series, down 2-1 when they have surrendered homecourt advantage.  In the Duncan era, San Antonio has been down 2-1 seven times. They've come back to win once, in 2008 against the New Orleans Hornets, when they did not have homecourt advantage to begin with. You can easily argue that it only proves they've overcome tougher circumstances than this. However, it does not change the fact that, when they have surrendered homecourt advantage in two of the first three games, they are oh-fer. In 2009, the Dallas Mavericks stunned the Spurs in the first round, taking two of the first three games and losing in five. In 2006, the Spurs lost two of the first three, again to the Mavericks, losing in seven after a furious comeback. In 2001, they were swept by the Lakers when they possessed homecourt. And, in 2000, they lost a best-of-five series against the Suns after losing two of the first three. 

This isn't to say the Spurs can't do it. In fact, you could just argue this is one more thing to mark off their impressive checklist. After all, the biggest reason there are so few of these situations for them is because the Spurs also won four championships in the Duncan era. But the fact remains they are trying to do something they've never done. 

The way this series has gone is also different. In the 2008 comeback series against the Hornets, they lost the first two in New Orleans, then homecourt held for both teams until Game 7. A stout defensive performance (typical for those Spurs) and a bad shooting night for New Orleans (typical for that city's luck) lead to the Spurs advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, who had homecourt advantage. Most notably, though? These are not the Spurs of old. The cast of characters at the front of the bill is, but the way they're trying to win is not. 

The Hook: Read Spurs blogs, listen to their broadcasters, listen to analysts. The message remains the same. The Spurs aren't going to get where they want to go in this series by playing gritty, hard-nosed defense. Instead, they have to rely on the perimeter shot. The Spurs are shooting 32 percent from the arc in this series versus 39 percent in the regular season. You can chalk that up to misses, but they're also taking six fewer shots from deep. (Stats courtesy of NBA StatsCube.)  The Spurs are playing better defense than they did in the regular season, both overall and in the four meetings with the Grizzlies, holding them to 98 defensive efficiency. But their offense has struggled as well and the result is two losses in three games. 

The Spurs shot an average of eight 3-pointers from the corner in the regular season. Against the Grizzlies, they're averaging just five. They're hitting at 47 percent, but the reason for the drop isn't systemic, it's based off the work of the Grizzlies defensively. The Grizzlies' best defensive attribute is disrupting passing lanes. They are great at anticipating and reacting to passes, particularly the drive and kick, which is a huge element in the Spurs' offense. Their help defense on penetration is their weakest asset, but their ability to jump passing lanes is their strongest. Even if they're not intercepting the pass to the corner three or wing, they're causing enough havoc to make the pass just a little harder to make, just a little harder to catch, and that disrupts timing and forces the Spurs to reset. If the Spurs cause enough damage inside on drives to force the Grizzlies to collapse harder, those perimeter threes open up, and San Antonio's success compounds itself. That's what's deciding this series so far. 

The Adjustment: In Game 1, the Grizzlies pounded the ball inside relentlessly. In Game 2, the Spurs responded by jamming the lane and collapsing on any ball-handler who entered, risking the kick-out to shooters. In Game 3, the Grizzlies spread their bigs more evenly, creating more space in the passing lanes within the paint. That helped with dishing to cutters, which forced the Spurs to not double over-aggressively, which created more room for the Memphis bigs. Again, the problem compounds itself. The Spurs in Game 4 will likely counter that by bringing doubles even faster and risking the Grizzlies having driving lanes. No Memphis wing has proven they can effectively slice through the offense other than Mike Conley. And if Mike Conley beats you, you just have to live with it if you're the Spurs. At some point, down 2-1, you have to pick your poison. They don't want to pick getting huge contributions from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

The X-Factor: Matt Bonner can kill the Spurs or the Grizzlies. It's going to be one or the other. Offensively, Bonner is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. He's phenomenal. He's an abject terror on the catch and shoot. With a tall frame, high release, and consistent form, Bonner daggered the Grizzlies in Game 2 and can do it again in Game 3 if left open. On the other hand, Bonner is a defensive nightmare... for San Antonio. The Grizzlies have started actually isolating Bonner at the elbow with either Darrel Arthur or Marc Gasol (the Spurs don't let Bonner see much time on Zach Randolph, and if they do, they double immediately). And nearly every time it results in a foul or points. Bonner has over a 109 defensive efficiency. That is awful. He can't handle Marc Gasol's girth, Randolph's moves, Arthur's speed, cover rotations or contribute in any way outside of the perimeter shot. But when he hits, it's a key element. That's why he keeps getting time. If the Spurs can find a way to cover for his defensive malfunctions while allowing the Bonner-Bot 2000 to just shoot 3-pointers, they'll be in good shape to tie the series. 

The Sticking Point: Memphis has played what could be arguably better basketball in likely 10 of the past 12 quarters of this series. But the Spurs lost by a Shane Battier 3-pointer in Game 1, and a clinching Zach Randolph 3-pointer (!) in Game 3, and still had a chance to tie that game. Memphis can't rely on San Antonio failing to call a timeout in Game 4. The Spurs, a championship quality team, is backed into a corner. They're going to respond. The big question tonight is how far the Grizzlies really want to go. Are they happy to get their first two playoff wins in franchise history and their first home playoff win ever, or do they really want to shock the world and complete a huge upset of an 8 seed over 1. Game 3 is likely going to be the game that decides that.

It's a must-win. For both teams. 

Posted on: April 24, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 6:09 pm

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: Die another day

The Sixers stave off elimination and the Heat choke away another game. Does either mean anything in the long run?
Posted by Matt Moore

First, it was certain the Sixers were going to save themselves some pride. Then, it was certain the Sixers were going to blow it again. And in the end, the world gets to celebrate another blown Heat lead, a blocked LeBron shot, and the Sixers live to die another day

The Heat ran off a 22-2 run in the second quarter and lost. The Sixers shot 41 percent and won. And the leading scorer for Philadelphia was Evan Turner, who didn't even play in the first two games of this series. Meanwhile, the Heat's offense wilted and died in the face of a much improved Philadelphia defense. Elton Brand played physical for the first time in this series, and the result was a 5-12 performance from Chris Bosh, who had averaged just under 22 points through the first three games. 

There's two ways to look at this game. 

On the one hand: This series is still over, right? The Heat have a significant lead down the stretch, and it takes a Lou Williams 3-pointer (granted, he's shooting 60 percent from the arc in this series, but still) to stave off elimination at home. The Heat ran off a 22-2 run and had they started with any level of consistency or effort, this would have been a blowout. Sweeping teams in the NBA is remarkably difficult (if you're not the Celtics, apparently), and the Heat giving up a game isn't the end of the world. They've been in control for 13 of the 16 quarters in this series, the chances of the Sixers climbing back in are extremely low. The talent gap is just too great. 

On the other hand: Isn't this how it starts? The Heat fail to close out a bad team in an elimination game. Spirits get down, emotions drop. Then the Sixers use the momentum to steal one in Miami, where the Heat don't have a great homecourt advantage with an apathetic crowd. All of a sudden, it's a 3-2 game going back to Philadelphia, and the Heat are questioning themselves. This sounds like science fiction. But it's what we've come to expect. Until the Heat prove they can commit to closing out a team with force, there will be doubt in people's minds about their ability. They gave this one up. So the model is there for Philadelphia, sans that second quarter disaster. The Sixers aren't dead, because the Heat haven't ended them yet. Until they do, that excitement about the possibility of a Sixers comeback will linger. 

Miami thought they had taken all the pressure off of themselves. They thought they would coast into the second round. But, as much of an advantage as they've had, they still couldn't get it done. The Sixers live to die another die. 
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:24 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 2:54 am

Series Reset: Sixers' last stand

Can the Sixers take a game? Can anything stop the Heat? Or will the Miami team that failed in key situations in the regular season show its ugly head?
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: This is the end, my only friend, the end. The Sixers have been overwhelmed in Games 1-3. In first-round defined by intensity, close games, and upsets, the Sixers are the one team that didn't show up to the party. They've been outmatched in this series and have shown no ability to figure out a solution to the Heat's Big 3. When Chris Bosh is owning you, you're in trouble. This isn't the same as Pacers-Bulls, where the Pacers have held leads for long stretches. The Sixers have held a lead now and then, but eventually the Heat run them out of the building. This thing's over. Maimi may slack off and let the Sixers get one in, but it'll be a gentleman's sweep (a sweep with a win thrown in to be polite to the other team). For the Heat, this is now about getting rest and continuing to build the sense of team definition they've been struggling to find all season.

The Hook: Chris Bosh was dominant in Game 1, LeBron James in Game 2, Dwyane Wade in Game 3. Who's going to take over in Game 4? Zydrunas Ilgauskas? Mario Chalmers? Mike Bibby? Joel Anthony? Probably not. The most likely scenario is the Big 3 each putting in contributions, the Sixers folding up the tents and this thing ending in a grind-it-out style like most of the series have been. It's true that the Triad has been in rare form in this series, but it's really been the Heat's defense which has done the work. They've shut down Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, frustrating each with matchups and hard switches. They've looked consistent, communicative and smooth. There's just not much you can see in the way of an adjustment that the Sixers could make. Unless...

The Adjustment: It's time for the zone. It can't hurt, right? Making the Heat into jump-shooters is a much preferable end than watching them slice and dice through anyone and everything in their way. The Sixers might as well throw this out there. Sure, it's one step short of the full-court trap in the gimmick department, but the Heat do have a penchant for settling for jumpers when things get tough. They've been nailing them in this series, but again, what does Philadelphia have to lose? They've got to play with pride, but they also need to commit to stopping the Heat from spinning their heads around. Aggressive doubles on Bosh in the post, and hard fouls on LeBron would help, but in reality, the only thing that looks to stop the Heat right now are the Heat. Zone will at least induce them to think about doing what will trip them up. 

The X-Factor: The wounded animal syndrome. The Pacers fought through about 70 bad breaks to beat a very good Chicago team. There's no reason the Sixers can't take one, especially at home. It'll take a monumental amount of pride and some fiery coaching from Doug Collins, but we've seen crazier things. Hey, the Spurs are down 2-1 to Memphis. Surely the Sixers can get one at home. 

The Sticking Point: The Heat look like the best team in the East right now. But it's just the first round. They could use the rest, and they could us the mental edge of taking out a team that can't challenge in a sweep. Will we see the killer instinct? That seems like the only thing between Philadelphia and the brooms. 
Posted on: April 24, 2011 12:24 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:46 am

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Zach Randolph FTW

Posted by Matt Moore

Zach Randolph is a career 28 percent 3-point shooter. He was 0-1 in the playoffs coming into Game 3. In the regular season, he shot 19 percent on 3-point attempts. He took 43 3-pointers this year. He hit 8 of them. So naturally, with the Grizzlies up just two in a pivotal Game 3 against the tried and tested San Antonio Spurs at home, Randolph elected to hoist one for all the marbles. 


Just like they drew it up. 

It would make sense that this would happen. All season long, Randolph would launch those threes, and when he'd hit, the reaction was Memphis sounded something like this:
"No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no ZBO NO YES!"


Randolph, who was considered a team killer, a locker room cancer, and a stats-first nobody when he came to Memphis, has reinvigorated the franchise. Among a cast of characters cast off from other teams, and in the case of O.J. Mayo, this one, Randolph stands as the people's champ in Memphis. And he just handed them their first playoff win in the city of Memphis, against the No.1 seed, and a 2-1 advantage going into Monday's Game 4. 

Just like they drew it up. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:42 am

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Spurs: A mystifying end

The Spurs do what they always do, fail to execute in the key moments of the game and surrender a 2-1 edge to the Memphis... wait, what? 
Posted by Matt Moore

Update 11:56 p.m.: Some interesting stuff here. Here's video of the final possession from the Spurs. 

Now let's look at it frame by frame. Tim Duncan is trucking down the floor trying to call time. Here's the halfcourt set before Duncan reaches the Spurs' side of the floor. 

You'll see Bonner up top calling for the Ball to hit an open three, not calling time. Pay attention to the clock in the upper right, not the broadcast clock. There's time remaining, but no one on this side of the floor is calling time. You'll see George Hill bottom left also calling for the ball, not calling for time. 

You'll see here, the red light is NOT on, and though the image of the clock is fuzzy, that tells us time is left on the clock. That certainly looks like .1 seconds. On the left, you'll see Tim Duncan racing in, screaming for a timeout. The official at the top of the screen, though, is watching the action and doesn't see and can't hear Duncan screaming. None of the other Spurs realize until after Duncan gets there that they need to be calling time. 

The buzzer sounds as the clock expires, Duncan is frantically calling for time. The broadcast clock says .2, but the game clock above the goal says .00. George Hill is still calling for the ball. Matt Bonner is pointing at Tim Duncan. And the Grizzlies are going up 2-1 in this best of seven series. 

Now, there's a world of things that can be talked about here. 1: the Spurs should have called time when they got possession. 2: Bonner, closest to the official, or Ginobili, or Hill need to be calling time once the ball crosses the timeline. 3: Even if the officials had seen Duncan motioning, there may not have been time for the Spurs to get a shot off. 4: The player has the responsibility to alert the official. 

But the fact remains that before time expires, Tim Duncan is calling timeout. 


Original post: The truth is, they've always been, well, the Spurs. 

The Spurs have been the model of execution for over a decade. They're a -- pardon the term --- "grizzled" veteran squad that does everything right, knows how to extend or speed up the game, makes the right pass, delivers the right play, works it down to the nub and pulls out the win more often than not. And all of that crashed and burned on their final possession in a pivotal Game 3 loss to the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night, 91-88. 

The Spurs managed to survive a final possession from Memphis which would have ended things right there. Zach Randolph missed a pull-up jumper just minutes after sinking a 3-pointer (yes, a 3-pointer), and the Spurs grabbed the rebound. That's when the hijinks began. 

George Hill grabbed the rebound, but instead of calling timeout, which would have progressed the ball to halfcourt, allowing the Spurs to set up a final possession, Hill took off like a rocket, trying to push. The Spurs did have a timeout remaining. Without the timeout, a rushed, hurried possession resulted in Manu Ginobili nearly getting the ball stripped in a trap, unable to get a shot off, and time expired. 

Memphis 91, Spurs 88. The 8th seed now has a 2-1 edge and maintains homecourt advantage in the best of seven series, with a chance to put the veteran Spurs on the cliffs of insanity Monday night in Memphis. 

There's some discussion that Tim Duncan may have been calling for time on the final play. The minute Hill elected to dribble, the opportunity to advance the ball was lost. However, the Spurs still would have been awarded a timeout and gotten the ball inbounds from under the Grizzlies' basket. But without the timeout, a Spurs team that looked out of sync and overwhelmed for much of the game, barring a stellar third quarter was unable to get the set they wanted. The result was an out-of-sync play and Ginobili, who was a hurricane in Game 3, was unable to pull out the miracle.

Questions will abound as to whether the Spurs did call time, and if they didn't, why in the name of George Gervin they didn't. In a series that has shown that records don't always show the difference between teams, Memphis has gained the advantage in the most unexpected of ways. 

By the Spurs not being the Spurs. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 3:11 pm

Series Reset Grizzlies-Spurs: Rhythm and blues

So... no pressure, guys, but, uh... this game probably decides the series. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: The series will either right itself in terms of the logical order of the universe, where the No.1 seed takes control of the series, disheartening the home team in their first playoff game in five seasons... or, the inmates run the asylum for another few days and may just have a chance to break out. How big is Game 3? The Duncan-era Spurs have never won a series in which they lost two of the first three games when they had homecourt advantage. They've only lost one series in which they won two of the first three (Lakers). So this is kind of a big deal. Will Memphis' fans show up? Will Manu Ginobili have an even bigger impact in Game 3 than he did in Game 2 (when he had five turnovers)? There's a lot of uncertainty about this game, but a Spurs win will calm the waters and restore some order to our chaotic universe. 

The Hook: The Spurs' 3-point barrage broke out a little big in Game 2, but hasn't fully gotten loose. The corner three was available, especially late, helping the Spurs to put Memphis away.  That's got to continue. Matt Bonner has to make big shots to justify his floor time considering he's a defensive liability that calls for a clearout every time he's on the floor. George Hill can destroy the Grizzlies if he can pull defenders and then hit when they collapse. And Manu Ginobili can just straight up pull-up and nail big shots. 3-pointers are often affected by homecourt advantage, there's a weird energy that affects those plays, being the big momentum swingers they are. How the Spurs respond will be a big deciding factor. In the regular season, the Spurs shot 5 percentage points worse from the perimeter on the road than they did at home. There are some playoff veterans on this team, and some inexperienced shooters. If the Spurs get hot from the outside, Memphis may drown defensively. They've done a good job running them off in this series. Keeping them off is another matter. 

The Adjustment: The Grizzlies gotta get space, man. In Game 2, the Spurs collapsed the lane, daring the Grizzlies to beat them with mid-range jumpers. The correct response here is to spread the Spurs out using spacing and continue to attack the rim. Instead, Memphis obliged and the result was control of the paint for San Antonio. The Grizzlies have to clear things out and that means hitting a few mid-range jumpers. But instead of the off-dribble pull-ups they went to in Game 2, the Grizzlies need to utilize the space created by the pick and roll. They have reliable spot-up shooters in Darrel Arthur and Marc Gasol, and on the perimeter with O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Shane Battier. If they use ball movement to create open looks, their offense looks much better. Off the dribble, it's an abject mess, and that's before you factor in San Antonio's penchant for creating turnovers out of such situations using their trap-and-swipe. If those shots open up the floor, the Spurs' defense will adjust which opens up interior passing to Randolph and Gasol, who can score, even if they're slightly out of position as long as they're not blanketed. How that adjustment fairs will determine if Memphis can carry any efficiency offensively at all. 

The X-Factor: O.J. Mayo has had decent, but not great games in the first two of this series. In Game 2, he went hero mode, trying to attack off the dribble and forcing shots while still drawing bad fouls. Mayo is a phenomenal streak shooter. When he works off the catch-and-shoot, or when Lionel Hollins uses him as such, Mayo can burn a defense and leave them shaking their heads. When he tries to produce off the dribble against bigger and longer defenders like George Hill, he gets swallowed alive and his bad decision making compounds it. The Grizzlies' bench unit is much better than it was at the start of the year, but still needs some form in order to function. Called plays for Mayo off-screen and catch-and-shoot could hurt the Spurs and frustrate them. Running improvisational sets with Mayo as ball handler or working with Greivis Vasquez at point will lead to more of the wasted possessions we saw in Game 2. Mayo has to get his if Memphis wants to take the advantage in this series. 

The Sticking Point: If you're talking about talent, outside of the Big 3, you could make the argument the Grizzlies have looked like the more talented team in this series. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier, Mike Conley, the list goes on. It's not a runaway by any means, but you could make the argument. It's been close these first two games. But championship caliber teams know when to take control of the wheel.  The Spurs function better than the Grizzlies systemically, and that's why Game 1 was so tight, and Game 2 was a win for the favorites. That's what this series really comes down to. Individual efforts vesus group think. And in those situations, group think usually wins when they have the strength and ability the Spurs do. That said, a loss would unravel that system somewhat, and create self-doubt. Once that's introudced, it's a whole new ballgame and Memphis will be riding a surge of momentum going into Game 4. Game 3's are always pivotal. Most playoff games after the first two are pivotal. But you get the sense that this game really will decide the  series. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com