The San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference first-round series with impressive victories and aim to take a commanding 3-0 lead when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. This might be Memphis’ one chance to make it a series after the Grizzlies scored just 82 points in each of the defeats in San Antonio.
Memphis has been unable to control Spurs All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 34.5 points on 20-of-28 shooting from the field while knocking down all 28 free-throw attempts. The Grizzlies are without defensive stalwart Tony Allen (calf) and have thrown a variety of defenders at Leonard to no avail. “The more he gets double-teamed, the more I enjoy it because he is just going to get better and better at finding out where people are,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “Other people have to learn where to be, too, to be outlets and kind of take advantage of that. So if someone is going to commit two people to him, we should be able to take advantage of it.” Seventh-seeded Memphis will be seeking a rebound from All-Star center Marc Gasol, who scored 32 points in Game 1 before dropping to 12 on 4-of-15 shooting in Game 2.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Southwest (San Antonio), FSN Southeast (Memphis),
ABOUT THE SPURS: Leonard is a force and continues to improve offensively and now appears ready to explode and obliterate the previous best scoring postseason of his six-year career of 22.5 set last season. Second-seeded San Antonio revolves around Leonard, who has raised his exploits despite opponents routinely double-teaming him in hopes of slowing his down. “It’s a gift and a curse,” Leonard told reporters of the double teams. “You want to get to this level, and then you start getting double-teamed but it’s all fun. It’s a game. You just have to approach it that way.”
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES: Memphis coach David Fizdale was fined $30,000 on Wednesday for unleashing a memorable rant about the officiating after Game 2 and one of his points was that Leonard attempted more free throws (19) than his entire team (15). Point guard Mike Conley understood his coach’s frustration and said the Spurs’ long history of winning is a factor. “The Spurs are champions. They’ve won many times. They’ve done a lot of great things,” Conley told reporters. “We haven’t earned that yet. We have to get to that mountaintop, and we understand that. I understand that. That’s why I‘m not going to complain about it. I‘m just going to keep my head down, keep focused, try to play through it the best I can and keep my teammates from letting it affect them mentally.”
1. The Grizzlies were 2-0 at home against the Spurs in the regular season, winning by an average of 11.5 points.
2. San Antonio PG Tony Parker is averaging 16.5 points through two games.
3. Memphis PG Mike Conley scored 24 points in Game 2 after struggling to 13 in the series opener.
PREDICTION: Spurs 96, Grizzlies 94