San Antonio at Memphis
Time: 8:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: SAS -3
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs have won their past three contests and eight of their past 10 overall to improve to 39-11 on the season, chasing No. 1 Golden State by 3.5 games. San Antonio will travel to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the second-half of a TNT double-header tonight.
The Spurs are three point favorites over Memphis, and the Grizzlies are 16-9 at home this season.
Memphis currently sits No. 6 in the West at 31-22 overall, and though some minor tweaks have occurred in Memphis, the overall “Grit N Grind” theme remains much the same. The biggest tweak has been moving veteran forward Zach Randolph to the bench as a sixth man, a role he has largely thrived in.
Starting at the 4-spot has been youngster JaMychal Green, who is having a great season in his own right. Randolph still tallies 14 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes a night, while Green is good for nine points and seven boards in slightly more minutes (29). Accenting that play from the center spot has been Marc Gasol, who is having one of his better seasons at 21 points, six rebounds and four assists per game.
Mike Conley has been his typical consistent self, averaging 19 points and six assists per game. And the Grizzlies are good: But do they stand any chance of knocking off the top-tier teams in the West? In a seven game series? Tonight will be one chance to show it belongs, because Memphis has been a team on the cusp of contention for the better part of a decade. No moves have occurred that have put the Grizzlies over the proverbial edge, and Chandler Parsons still has not really rounded into the form and shape he exhibited while a member of the Houston Rockets. Parsons is averaging just six pitons and two boards per game in 18 minutes a night, with James Ennis and Vince Carter both being more valuable cogs in the Memphis rotation.
Carter, now 40 years old, has got just about everything possible imaginable from his aged body and is averaging eight points and three rebounds per game in 24 minutes a night. He still has his nights and flashes of looking like “old Vince,” which is fairly emblematic of a scorer who still has some bunnies left in his legs.
Along with the aforementioned, Tony Allen is still the top wing defender in the NBA and his nine points and five rebounds per game hardly tell the story over his overall vast impact. The Grizzlies have a strong team identity, a tough team defense, and all the things contending teams have really—except a legitimate superstar to close out games. Or is that unfair to Gasol, whose clutch genes have definitely shined at time? The only thing that can be said with certainty about this Memphis team is it will not be an easy out for whichever higher seed draws them in the 2017 playoffs.
San Antonio’s last three victories have come over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. The Spurs won all three games by double-digits, and are rolling even with an assortment of injuries to key players. Pau Gasol, most notably, has missed games but Dwayne Dedmon and Jonathan Simmons have stepped up brilliantly in his stead to play great basketball off the bench.
The Spurs continually get blood from oranges, with an assortment of bench talents that thrive far more than they would elsewhere in Gregg Popovich’s renown “system.” The Spurs have made Dedmon into one of the league’s top reserve big men, after he spent seasons lingering in Orlando as a seldom-used backup to Nikola Vucevic.
Of course, Orlando’s issue with squandering young talent is nothing new, but the fact that Dedmon has found his calling in black and silver is hardly a surprise either. He functions well in pick and roll sets, finishes lobs, and defends with energy and vigor. He is a perfect Spur, in other words.
Of course, the key piece in San Antonio’s attack is 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has blossomed into a legitimate superstar, and he is averaging 25 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in just 33 minutes a night (not a huge workload for a superstar). LaMarcus Aldridge’s numbers may have fallen off precipitously since his time in Portland, but he has been an efficient source of offense for the Spurs and seems to embrace his lesser role in allowing Leonard to be the No. 1 option. And once Gasol returns, this team will still have one of the league’s best frontcourts.
The issues with the Spurs’ backcourt has hardly been as exploited as some pundits said it would be prior to this season, with Tony Parker and Patty Mills both smart enough to cover their respectively slow feet. Rookie Dejounte Murray, too, has factored in at the point position and the Spurs are ultimately very high on his pro prospects and potential.