When the dust settled, the last teams standing in the wild Western Conference were the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies. Bloodied and beaten on the floor were the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, who fell in five to the Grizz, and the upstart Golden State Warriors, who managed to take the Spurs to six games. The Western Conference Finals are up next, and once again, we bring you our fearless forecasts for the series.
The Spurs and the Grizzlies meet again. Most people will definitely look back on that fateful first-round matchup two years ago between these same teams, with No. 8 Memphis edging out the top-seeded Spurs in 6 games.
Two years is two years, and these two teams are very much different now. San Antonio is older, especially the big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, but new guys like Kawhi Leonard are stepping up their games. Memphis has traded away former franchise player (the term is loosely used here) Rudy Gay, and it’s all about playing the core group of Z-Bo, Gasol, and Conley with different guys stepping up practically each game.
While the teams are different, the games and their results should be the same. These games will be hard-fought, and the scores will be close. With their experience and ability to come up big in the clutch, the Spurs should be favored to win this series. They swept the Lakers and overcame the streaky Warriors, and you can always count on Gregg Popovich to get his guys ready, with the necessary adjustments in anticipation of a totally different opponent.
You can’t really overlook the Grizzlies, though, who had probably the tougher path to the WCF. They had to go through the fourth-seeded Clippers in round 1, and then the Thunder in round 2. Memphis proved its consistency and defensive toughness over those two rounds. Expect much of the same grind from the Grizz in the WCF. What’s more, there’s really only Duncan on the Spurs to counter the two-headed monster of Gasol and Randolph, and the Grizzlies’ defense should prove to be a handful for the Spurs.
My pick: Memphis in 7