During the last few weeks of regular season,few teams were fighting to be in the bubble.Few top teams wanted to claim as much as higher in the seeding.Few teams were happy to be in top 4 to get the home team advantage.There was one 7th seeded team which deliberately lost in final games to get top seeded.Generally teams will try to avoid the top seeded team as they will be the toughest opponent.But Memphis Grizzlies believed that they have a better chance in beating Spurs than playing with any other teams.
This is not because Spurs do not play well.Basketball is all about matchups.Teams with matchup advantage always have an edge and with Spurs lacking a strong inside presence gave way to Grizzlies’ big guys like Randolph and Gasol to believe that they can really cause an upset.
But can matchup alone cause upset?In 2004 finals,Detroit looked like a team that does not stand a chance against the lineup Shaq,Kobe,Karl Malone,Gary Payton and Derek Fisher.But they stuffed the Lakers with their terrific defense.When Big 3 was formed in 2008 at Boston,Tom Thiebedou ,the Chief Architect of Defense,crafted a defensive scheme which was their primary weapon to beat Lakers in 6 games.Then he carried the same playbook to Bulls and we can see Bulls are so defensive minded.
This is a copycat league and coaches and crew are looking at the films and strategies others coaches use to beat teams.Memphis coach Lionel Hollins has done a great job of sticking to defense first mindset.He has two top perimeter defenders in the likes of Shane Battier and Tony Allen.Spurs do not have an answer for their quickness and defense.Tim Duncan cannot matchup physically against Gasol or Randolph.Manu Ginobili and Parker cannot do it all.Hence they trail 1-3 and are on the brink of an elimination.
On the other hand,Lakers looked like the best team in West though Spurs had better winning record.Lakers are struggling to put away Hornets.Hornets do not have super stars except Chris Paul and they do not have length yet they are pushing Lakers to atleast Game 6 for now.How do they do it?DEFENSE.Monty Williams,the rookie coach,realized that he cannot be explosive in offense.But with Trevor Ariza in the perimeters,Landry in paint,he can shutdown 2 players and Chris Paul can match with any Point Guards in the league.
Lakers who themselves won the last 2 titles with defense are struggling against the Pick and Roll execution of Hornets and they do not have a single clue to stop CP3.Lakers have always struggled against speedy scoring Point Guards.
So what do the Lakers and Spurs in post season though they won numerous games in regular season?In Game 4 at Grizzlies,Memphis was leading by 12 and Spurs cut the lead to 5.Hollins took a timeout and said “Guys we are the ones who should show desperation”.Yes thats the keyword.Desperation.Teams in the bottom play with desperation as they want to succeed and get to the next round which is their goal.
Lakers and Spurs do not play with desperation.We cannot blame the Lakers.After all they have been active till June for the past 3 seasons and 3-Peat is not a desperate action for them.Personally Kobe want to match Jordan and Phil Jackson want to be in history.Other than that,there is nothing so interesting for players to be desperate for a title.Ofcourse the new contracts are luring for players.
Also in Western Conference,the bottom seeds are not actually average teams unlike in Eastern conference.So they compete harder than the Eastern Conference teams.Its good to see the teams putting on a fight.
Lakers might win this series as they usually start off sluggishly but Spurs are in deeper hole and I do not see a way for them to come up.They might win Game 5 at Spurs but Grizzlies will wrap this up for sure.
This is NBA Playoffs.Only teams with DESPERATION can win.The teams need to show that passion,energy on the field to succeed.