It won't draw quite as much attention as the Western Conference's glitzier No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup, but the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs offer a very different sort of appeal as a play-in matchup. This game is a glimpse into the conference's future. Memphis centerpieces Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. have yet to reach the playoffs, and while the Spurs boast a slightly more balanced group in terms of age, many of their core pieces are postseason neophytes as well.
Eventually, the Grizzlies and Spurs will grow into postseason mainstays. We might even get a later-stage rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Finals in a few years. When the Spurs and Grizzlies do evolve grownup contenders, we'll look back at this moment as an inflection point on their journeys to the top.
That doesn't mean the road for either team will be easy. Even the victor will face long odds in a winner-take-all battle with the loser of Wednesday's highly anticipated Lakers-Warriors bout. But San Antonio's decades-long playoff streak was snapped last season, and the Grizzlies are still only midway through a rebuild. At this stage, both teams have everything to gain and little to lose, so let's dive into what our experts expect from the Spurs and Grizzlies.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Date: Wednesday, May 18 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET | TV and live stream: ESPN
Reiter's take: They're the better team. Ja Morant will be the game's best player. And a young, up-and-coming team with the memory of last summer's bubble heartbreak will push them past Pop's Spurs. Pick: Grizzlies
Ward-Henninger's take: The Spurs gave up 119, 129 and 133 points to the Grizzlies in their three matchup this season. If Memphis can come anywhere close to that, the Spurs just won't have enough firepower to keep up against the league's seventh-ranked defense. Pick: Grizzlies
Herbert's take: The Spurs are surely going to surrender space to Ja Morant, and I'm optimistic that he'll take advantage of it. The Grizzlies need their floater game to be on point, though, and they must, must, MUST push the pace at every opportunity. Pick: Grizzlies
Botkin's take: Ja Morant is Russell Westbrook with a floater and I worry about the same things with both -- namely the shooting. The Grizzlies aren't just about Morant, but he's the best player and he has the "it" factor in a one-game setting. I think he wears San Antonio down in the second half with the pedal to the floor. Pick: Grizzlies
Kaskey-Blomain's take: The Grizzlies won two out of three matchups between the two teams on the season, and they've been playing better ball recently. Plus, they'll have the best on the floor in Ja Morant, so they should have the edge. Pick: Grizzlies
Maloney's take: I'm not sure I entirely trust Ja Morant and this young Grizzlies team, but the Spurs were so bad down the stretch that I just cannot pick them in this game. The only five teams with a net rating worse than the Spurs (-7.9) the last three weeks were all desperately trying to out-tank each other. Pick: Grizzlies
Quinn's take: If this game is close at the end, who do you trust to carry their team to the finish line? I'm taking DeMar DeRozan's track record over Memphis and its' minus-6.2 net rating in the clutch this season. Pick: Spurs
Wimbish's take: This will be the game that everyone begins singing the praises of Xavier Tillman -- if they haven't been already. Pick: Grizzlies
Thanks for checking us out, and good luck with your picks!