The San Antonio Spurs head to Memphis for a battle with the Grizzlies in the play-in tournament. This is yet another meeting between two franchises who had some exciting playoff matchups during the 2010s, including when the #8 Grizzlies stunned the #1 Spurs in the opening round. This time though, one game will determine the ultimate victor and loser that will be sent home for the summer.
The Spurs had their ups throughout the season but went just 2-8 over their final 10 games. The return of Derrick White helped them on both ends of the floor, and his just-as-fast season-ending injury was crushing. He is a big scorer, and not having him around has hurt. DeMar DeRozan sometimes bites off more than he can chew, and the team suffers as a result.
Memphis is now the only NBA team to be a part of two play-in tournaments. They finished as the #9 seed after the NBA’s bubble reboot last season and were quickly bounced out by #8 Portland in the first game. Just like a season ago, the Grizzlies will be seeking to win consecutive games in order to move into the actual bracket. A date with the mighty Jazz would await them if they can make it.
The spread for the game is currently set at MEM -4. The over/under is 222 points.
Can the Spurs Pull It Off?
The one reason some teams may have for not being play-in fans has everything to do with this Spurs team. They are the only play-in team in the West that has a losing record, while #9 Memphis finished with a 38-34 mark. The Spurs ended up at 33-39, struggling after fighting back to .500 at 31-31. They lost a lot of games and perhaps didn’t belong.
The rules say that #9 and #10 play one game to try and move into the play-in final, and that is still going to be the case. DeRozan is the team’s obvious leader, but he won’t shoot beyond 15 feet. They have Dejounte Murray and elite rim protector Jakob Poeltl. They get some productivity from Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, but it’s inconsistent.
They have to slow down Ja Morant and keep Jonas Valanciunas from gobbling all the rebounds if they want to win.
Grizzlies Seeking Redemption
After picking up the #2 pick in the 2019 draft, Ja Morant was made a Grizzly. He has been terrific in his first two years in Memphis, even though the team fell short of expectations upon play being restarted. They went 2-7 in nine games. This time, they have a chance to just win a few, having more rhythm, and can move into the bracket.
It will not be easy because not only do they have to beat the shifty Spurs, but also the loser of Lakers-Warriors. LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or Stephen Curry. There is no easy matchup there. GS beat them to close the regular season to secure the #8 seed. There might be hard feelings.
To win this one, they need to win in the three-point game and on the rebounds.
THE SPURS ARE OUT
The Grizzlies will get the win, knocking SA out early. On to Friday.
FREE PLAY: MEM -4
OVER/UNDER: UNDER 222
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