If Game 1 was any indication, the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, entering Game 2 fresh off of a 106-74 trouncing Sunday afternoon at AT&T Center, are in for a strenuous ride over the remainder of their first round series against the title-hungry San Antonio Spurs.
Memphis had just one starter in double figures on the night, while succumbing to a suffocating defensive approach by San Antonio, shooting a horrid 39% from the field while getting to the foul stripe on just six occasions.
On the other hand, hitting a bevy of shots was not an issue for the second-seeded Spurs, who embarrassed the Grizzlies defense to the tune of 52% shooting from the field, 10-22 shooting from beyond the three-point line, and a nearly impeccable 12-13 faring from the line.
Small forward Kawhi Leonard hit eight of his 13 shot attempts to pace San Antonio with 20 points in addition for four steals while power forward LaMarcus Aldridge peppered in a 17-point night on 8-15 shooting.
The Spurs also won the rebounding battle on the night, 44-35, pioneered by an 11-board performance by the immortal Tim Duncan as the 40-year old searches for his fifth NBA title.
Despite the bleakness of the Grizzlies outlook heading into Game 2, there are still ways in which the team can thwart San Antonio's quest of a sweep.
1. Contain Kawhi Leonard
While small forward Matt Barnes has etched a reputation for himself around the NBA as a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners defender over the years, the stoic Leonard simply exploited his defensive tactics in Game 1.
The San Diego State product lifted for an array of threes both off of the dribble and off of the catch, hitting three of his six attempts from deep. Barnes was no match for Leonard when he put in on the floor as well, with the quiet assassin splitting the 12-year veteran with a multitude of dribble moves to the paint as well as creating his shot with reckless abandon.
If the Grizzlies wish to contest San Antonio in Game 2, a all-hands-on-deck approach to limiting Leonard is required. Barnes must stay up in the newly-anointed Defensive Player of the Year's grill at all times while doing his best to keep him uncomfortable.
Expect Memphis to throw shooting guard Lance Stephenson at Leonard as well, while tossing the occasional double-team his way in addition.
2. Zach Randolph Must Find His Niche
Remember when the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upset the first-seeded Spurs in the first round of the 2011 playoffs behind a furious attacking approach from power forward Zach Randolph?
Well, Randolph was a shell of his former self in Game 1, faring a horrendous 3-13 from the field en route to six points and three turnovers to accompany a -28 plus-minus rating in 28 minutes of action.
With both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol missing due to injuries, Memphis must be able to rely on Randolph's offensive presence if they wish to pose a viable threat to the Spurs, and the Michigan State product was more of a hindrance to the Grizzlies as opposed to a threat to the Spurs in the first game of the series.
Memphis must attempt to activate Randolph early in the contest and allow him to find his rhythm if they have any hope of putting the ball in the basket with some consistency as the San Antonio backcourt trumps the Grizzlies backcourt arsenal by a tremendous margin.
3. Find Vince!
It is difficult to believe that, with 17 NBA seasons under his belt, that shooting guard Vince Carter is a starter on a playoff team.
However, in the dire straits that the Grizzlies decrepit roster finds itself in, that is the case. To Carter's credit, he has emerged as a feature offensive presence on a team in need of one.
The 39-year old averaged 10.4 points per game on 55% shooting from three-point range during the month of April, and he continued that momentum into Game 1, hitting six of his seven field goal attempts (2-3 from beyond the arc) for a team-high 16 points in 19 minutes of action.
Carter has displayed his transformation into the role of a spot-up shooter as of late, and Memphis needs to showcase that transition to compete with the Spurs. The team must sets off-ball screens early and often for Carter in order to free him up for outside shots, opportunities that the former high-flyer has shown he can capitalize on.
Prediction: Spurs 98, Grizzlies 78