Where the Grizzlies are getting it done, a perky parade route for OKC, and where the Celtics are sinking…
There were a few of us believers in the Memphis Grizzlies in this particular postseason. The Grizz have now won four of the last five meetings against the aged Spurs going back to since Rudy was knocked out the remainder of this season’s competition.
So how are they doing it?
With superior, more physical matchups.
Mike Conley has handled Tony Parker better than most believed he was capable of, and Gasol the Greater has dominated Tim Duncan, who crossed the threshold of maximum efficiency minutes, 35,000, late last season.
A short aside: I happened to be tracking Duncan’s career minutes at the time. It was eery how his numbers suddenly dropped off a cliff, virtually at the exact moment his mileage reached critical mass in March of 2010.
Duncan’s points and rebounds by month last season: Nov. 19.7 and 10.3, Dec. 21.1 and 9.8, Jan. 19.5 and 11.5, Feb. 16.7 and 11.9, and the plateau is topped, Mar. 14.2 and 7.9.
He rebounded a bit in the playoffs last spring, but it’s clear that his best days as a consistent force are done. We’ll see Timmy only in short dynamic spurts from now on.
But there’s another matchup I’d like to zoom in on for a moment; Manu Ginobili versus Tony Allen.
As the Spurs’ best player these days, they lean heavily on Ginobili now. But he struggles to score on the Grizz, at least at his usual levels of efficiency excellence, especially with one of the better wing defenders, Tony Allen, covering him.
Ginobili posted some of his worst statistical splits of the season against the suddenly defensive-minded Grizzlies, especially from the arc.
Manu is 1 for his last 11 threes versus the Grizzles, and 4-21 on the season in six games, including the regular and postseason. This from a career .371 3-shooter. 2010-11 is easily his worst career numbers from the arc in the playoffs.
He posted a regular season PER of 21.8, splitting minutes between the shooting guard and small forward spots.
You can see the entire season leaders’ list here
And Shane Battier gives up a stifling opponent PER of 10.0 at the 3-spot, for when Manu slides forward, which would have been good enough for third in the entire league had he played the season in one place.
Ginobili has put up more-than-solid numbers against Tony Allen in his two games in the playoff series versus the Grizzlies, playing his heart out and leading San Antonio to a close win in Game 2, and nearly doing so again in Game 3. Allen hasn’t been able to slow the amazing Manu much.
But the thing is, he might not have to, entirely.
What he has been giving has been enough to a Spurs team that’s beginning to show bruising like a softened, overly-ripe fruit hanging on a bare vine in a light breeze.
But only one team made the move they really needed to.
I’m talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Not only have their brass built intelligently, but Sam Presti can now add “Top Trade Maker” to his resumé as well.
The Thunder were the only team that identified and fully addressed their needs for this season in the handful of major moves that were made by the February deadline.
An excellent defensive team last season, OKC found itself surprisingly hovering around the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency ratings this go ’round.
Already adequate offensively, Presti picked up the phone and made a fool of Boston’s Danny Ainge by stealing the scowl right out from under him.
Even though Kendrick Perkins played only 17 games in the regular season for the Thunder, you could immediaely see them trending the right direction on defense heading into the playoffs.
Defensively, Perk has had a similar effect on the OKC that Tyson Chandler did for the Dallas Mavericks this season, both teams sporting a new swagger on the stopping side of the court with their respective robust defensive stalwarts patrolling the paint.
With Perkins strangely smiling after settling all the way into his new home he’s carried the Thunder to among the elite in the league, defensively. In the regular season, the league average DRtg was 107.3, in the playoffs, 105.4.
From here, go back through the same D-ratings, only this time tracking Boston back to the top to see a directly inverse effect on their respective ranking.
Back in a January post I predicted the Celtics would make a run at the title and win it. But that was based largely on their defense.
I have to hand the same respect to the Thunder now.
They’re legit contenders to leave fans of the Zombie Sonics planning a parade route come June.
You can follow Clint on Twitter at @Clintonite33
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