On shocking the world vs. the comforts of history, outliers and omens

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As much as Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins tried to downplay the significance of the Grizzlies first playoff win in franchise history, it is hard to escape historical questions when you carry into the playoffs a battle cry of “let’s make history.”

Still, Hollins gave it a good effort, claiming the only comfort he would take was in the solace that his team would no longer be bothered with questions about a playoff history only Shane Battier was around to see — and he was once removed.

“Well, the most gratifying thing is that we got a win and we’re in the playoffs. We would like to keep being ahead in the playoffs,” Hollins said. “The only thing that’s fitting about this is that Shane Battier hit the 3 to put us ahead and he was a part of the three teams that had gone 0-for-12.”

For Memphis and especially Shane Battier and Zach Randolph — one blessed with a child after the game, the other a fat contract — Sunday will forever be marked as a day of remembrance, regardless of the outcome. For the Spurs, unless the series eventually ends in catastrophe, it was just a Sunday.

Sunday’s performance is not one to dismiss outright as there are some significant steps to be undertaken if the Spurs don’t want to share the humiliation of their cross-state rival Dallas Mavericks as a top seed ousted by an eighth seed, but the Spurs are well practiced in the art of overcoming Game 1 losses. They are aware of their history.

“You try to prepare yourself,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said after the game. “You know our history that we haven’t played well in Game 1 and it happened again. So we just have to focus on Game 2.”

The last Game 1 the Spurs tasted victory in was through the grace of God and a Tim Duncan 3-pointer. Outside of that the Spurs have endured in each of the championship seasons featuring Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, an opening playoff loss.

Marbury banks a three in 2003 and the Nuggets steal a victory in the AT&T Center in both 2005 and 2007. While they won the opening salvo against the Minnesota Timberwolves in their 1999 title run, they also had to overcome Kevin Garnett’s infamous shock the world boasts and a Game 2 loss. A year ago the Spurs were dropped by a Dirk Nowitzki outlier, which given his everyday potent game was a pretty damn large outlier.

Promising as he is, Marc Gasol’s Game 1 reeked of Dirk Nowitzki’s “sky is falling, change your tactics” game of a year ago.

  • A pick and roll layup and foul a half step away from being a charge.
  • A pick and roll for a foul and two free throws.
  • A pick and roll jumper in which Duncan sagged too far on the help, leaving Gasol an open jumper a step or two inside the three-point line.
  • Another pick and roll jumper from the free throw line with Richard Jefferson rotating too late from the weak side corner.
  • A high-arching turnaround jumper tightly contested in the post by Duncan a few steps out of deep position.
  • The lone shot missed was a jab step, one-dribble fling over Duncan (to which the Express-News‘ Mike Monroe exclaimed “I told you!” after betting in the first half that Gasol would not make every shot. He was right, technically).
  • An offensive rebound off of dribble penetration and a foul for free throws.
  • Gasol’s slow-footed version of the dream shake over Duncan, which was more about the left arm used to clear Duncan out than the move itself.
  • An isolation post on Duncan in which Gasol sealed him off and went baseline for a layup and a free throw attempt.
  • A pick and roll, with a delayed roll, that ended in a questionable call on Blair and two free throws.
  • An offensive rebound and put back.
  • Gasol cutting off pick and roll action, in which his size presented a target and two free throws.
  • A cut and layup off of dribble penetration.

Zach Randolph is simply a different natured beast from any other player in the NBA. An isolation scorer who befuddled Popovich and Duncan long before the Spurs big man hit any sort of decline; to the point where Popovich once threw Bruce Bowen on Randolph long ago out of exasperation.

It’s not that the Spurs defended poorly, it’s that Randolph is the rare player who needs almost no daylight to get off what is a quality shot for him, and generally only him. Randolph has such touch on his shots it would seem 70% of the shots he can get on the rim are falling in softly.

But Randolph is an expected beast, one the Spurs have accounted for in their game plan and can overcome. What will tilt this series are repeat 9-for-10 performances from any other Grizzlies player.

Yet for all the talk about the size of the Grizzlies that is not where the Spurs were beat last night. Of Marc Gasol’s nine field goals, only two were directly correlated to his size (the offensive rebound and the post up on Duncan). Instead another nemesis reared its ugly head: the pick and pop and pick and roll.

In this Duncan was correct, he kept too much of an eye on Randolph yesterday leaving far too much for Gasol. With Duncan shading towards Randolph, quick ball reversals left Duncan out of optimal position at the start of most pick and roll action with Gasol.

Defensive rotations can be tightened. Jumpers will be missed. That is not to say Gasol will not be a large impact on this series, but the Spurs are likely to curb the Game 1 impact he had. The Spurs took one hell of a shot Sunday, perhaps the Grizzlies best, but only gave a momentary stagger.

“We are going to have the same general game plan, it wasn’t like we got beat by 25,” Popovich said. “We played hard, we missed some free throws down the stretch, and had some good looks that just didn’t go in.

“Shane hit a big three, Mayo hit a big 3 from the corner, so shot have to go in for us down the stretch. It doesn’t mean that you change your philosophy.”

Wednesday the Spurs will pick up where they started with a few tweaks in place and hopefully their ace closer in uniform. As they look to the future, they remember their past. What good is experience if you do not lean on it?

The memories of previous championship opening losses do not mean the Spurs will win this series. For now they simply mean not to panic.

  • http://regularfan.blogspot.com/ Humberto

    Always a good idea to not overreact to a game 1 loss. If the Spurs are as good as we think they are, they will bounce back just fine.

  • Chris

    Spurs didn’t play great, Grizzlies did, and thy beat us by 3. No worries. Manu will be back, Pop will make the right adjustments, and all will be right with the world.

  • Hobson13

    Good article. No way Gasol shoots 90% from the field in another playoff game. Ever. Randolph played about as well as expected. The most encouraging take away for me is the fact that the Grizz have virtually no outside, break-down-the-defense kind of player. If the Spurs wing men stay at home and let our bigs battle Gasol and Randolph, then Memphis will have a tough time scoring. Also, the Spurs just missed too many open shots that would have been made earlier in the season. I expect a blowout game this Wednesday followed by a razor close game 3.

  • TD = Best EVER

    SPURS are gonna win this series barring a miracle………Problem here is that POP doesn’t want to coach Defense anymore in his Old age……. It’s too tough on him I guess….. So we have a team that CAN’T get stops anymore…… AND POP is looking the the old, wiley, grizzled Police Detective a few weeks away from retiring and a nice 25 year pension……. So naturally he doesn’t want to take on any serious/challenging work, he just wants to sit behind a desk and type up reports and file a few papers and get paid………..

  • Titletown99030507defense

    Without posting any analysis or hard evidence to your assessment you my friend are exactly right. They will take this series but I’m afraid it will be in 7.

  • Titletown99030507defense

    This is your best post ever! LOL

  • Titletown99030507defense

    And Timmy is the partner with two more years left hoping for a young motivated partner to do all the dirty work before he leaves.

  • Peter

    Sure, he won’t go off like that again. But M. Gasol hits a pretty respectable percentage on his jumpers, for a center. Seems like something he’s comfortable doing when he gets a good look.

    I think he’s more X-factor than fluke, and Spurs will have to adjust.

  • Jesse Blanchard

    If the Spurs hold Gasol to his regular roughly 50% shooting, they win.

  • Bob

    The problem is not whether the Spurs win this series. It’s about further down the line. A long first round series might make a difference when it comes to the next round. I think Pop is doing it harder than it needs to be. If the Spurs play good defense it doesn’t come to a last second shot. There’s more than enough firepower on this team. They don’t need more shots to go in. They need more defense.

  • Bruno

    If Spurs want win, Parker/Dice/ Hill need play better next game.

    PS: How can i change the picture?

  • Bigballs

    My, my – Ian Mahimi would sure look good as big body down low for the Spurs for 10 to 15 minutes per game, instead Spurs let a 22 yr. old, athletic, 7 footer just walk and Splitter is not ready to play at the elite level. Mavs got the kid for nothing after Spurs spent 3 development years on him. Mavs will sign him long term after his inital 2 year deal.

    Bonner on Zach Randolf in the post — are you kidding? Duncan is old, plays old and is nothing more then a jump shooter now. Why not go after Pops Mensu Bonsu whom the Spurs had in camp last year. Young, athletic, fresh legs can jump out the gym, energy guy, can rebound and play defense. Best of all, he is cheap.

    If you guys recall, I also correctly prophasized the demise of both Keith Bogan and Rog Mason. Also, slammed Pop for taking taking the last two years off. Pop carries tooooo many 6-5/6-6 guys on his roster — needs more solid, rugged, front court guys. Without this, Pop is just wasting Ducan’s, Parker and Ginobli’s final years.

  • becauseheismanuginobili

    It hurt to lose after coming back behind those 2 threes by Matty…it took a full 26 hours before I felt like reading any b-ball related stuff. I hope Pop will make the necessary adjustments and I hope giving Manu the extra time to heal is worth it.

  • TD = Best EVER

    But how can you do that Jesse when your Defense has been sucking for about 3 months now…… How many bad teams have come into our house and shot 50% or higher……. a full 3-5% higher than they shoot regularly……. WE have given up big games to many players this year….. And Gasol is far from the worst talented of those players…… So it may have been a fluke, but with our D it’s not like we can be shocked if Gasol or another player goes off on us….. WE have given up a 20 point game to Tony(I can’t shoot) Allen this year as well…… 1 game he was like 7-8 or something……

  • DorieStreet

    Mahinmi averages lesst than 9 minutes for his 56 games played for the Mavs; and for every 15 or even 20 minutes he gets in a particular game, there are 2 more were he logs less than 6 minutes, and then another game where he logs 0s aka DNP. He’s a career 12th-14th man as long as he’s in the league–and Dallas ain’t his last stop.

  • rabis

    Just Funny to see this George Hill Retweet today. If anybody notice GH Tweets, he would say tweet this everyday.
    Jus want to start by  the man upstairs for allowing me to  another ! Hope everyone has a blessed day. Impact someones life.
    Retweet: @iZeligalegria: Stop worring about the man upstairs and worry about making more shots @George_Hill3.

  • DorieStreet

    I must have read a dozen times on a 2-3 blogsites this phrase: “no way Marc Gasol shoots 90% /goes 9-10 again.”
    Lets not leave it up to devine fate or an abberation–guard him and guard him well in game #2 and throughout the rest of the series.

  • TD = Best EVER

    That’s so funny and so wrong at the same time…… LOL

  • andy

    i still think it’ll be a gentleman’s sweep. if anything, it convinces me more. we took the best shot they had, and they still only won at the last second. and manu must be steaming.

  • andy

    i agree, but did you watch the thunder-nuggets (i just wanted to write “thunder nuggets”) game? that series could easily go to 7. i don’t think ours will, and with the lakers having an off game, i think the west in general is going to go long.

  • Junierizzle

    I just want to see The Grizz beat the SPURS when they have all of the Big 3.

  • rabis

    same thing here. Just did’nt read or browse or turn on the xm radio until this evening. If spurs lose game 2, I’m done watching BB for this year. hopefully atleast for round 1 , last year results repeat.,losing game 1 and winning the series. but that loss was in dallas and this is in SA.

  • Colin Rigney

    I would like to see the Spurs go 2-3 zone for 4 to 5 possessions each half and see how that shakes up the Grizzlies inside presence.

  • memphismaphia

    Sounds to me like you’re just trying desperately to convince yourself and other shell-shocked Spurs fans of something you know is not true.

    The Spurs very well may bounce back in Game 2, and very well may still go on to win the series, but it’s hilarious watching Spurs fans pretend to be confident while squirming, as if there is nothing to worry about. You should be very worried. Hell, you should be terrified. Counting the Game 1 win, the Grizzlies are now 3-2 against the Spurs on the season, and played them very closely in both losses…and you can’t use Manu Ginobili or Rudy Gay as an excuse either because Manu played in all four regular season match-ups and Rudy Gay played in NONE of them.

    So, you may be shocked and stunned that you just lost that first game, but to someone who is realistic and paid attention to the Grizzlies this season, there is nothing shocking about what happened.

  • Colin Rigney

    Mahinmi gets about 1 more min/game this season with the Mavs compared to his career avg. Doesn’t look like the Mavs see too much in him either.

  • andy

    while it’s true that a loss wasn’t shocking, “to someone who is realistic and paid attention” to the game would see that the way you won wasn’t typical of our games to date, and that all the problems we had against memphis before were improved.

    also, just as a hint, your manu vs. gay argument isn’t logical. saying that “Manu played in all four regular season match-ups and Rudy Gay played in NONE of them” merely corroborates that we missed him last night. assuming all else constant, you believe the series to be closer than we, and if we split half our games during the regular season, then minus our highest scorer and one of our most important pieces, shouldn’t we lose? doesn’t not having manu then become a valid excuse?

    i’ll stick to not being worried/terrified.

  • Colin Rigney

    The man’s got faith and an NBA game. What do you got?

  • Len

    I am worried. But then again, I was worried in 03, 05 & 07 when the Spurs lost game 1 in the first round. Spurs just need to take care of business and do so in a convincing manner in game 2 and all will be right in the world. A little court time for Tiago would help as well.

  • Anonymous

    You guys are too funny. I’m not sure where all this confidence is coming from. You guys say that you played terrible, memphis played their best, and you only lost by three. Well, I’d say you got all the calls, went to the free throw line 50 times (!), Tony Allen and Sam Young had terrible games, and memphis still won. Your team is the biggest collection of floppers and crybabies in the NBA. The last time Ginobili played against the Grizz, he hurt his leg while flopping and had to sit out a couple of games. Flopping and crying to the refs…that’s all you guys have left.

    You may well win the series…your experience will benefit you, along with all the touch fouls Parker and Ginobili will get calls on. But discount this Grizzlies team at your own risk. They’ve been playing without their best player since before the all star break. Anyone who knows basketball and has watched the NBA this year knows that the Grizzlies are for real. Gasol’s game wasn’t a fluke. As soon as the Spurs adjust to stop Gasol, Randolph will go off. And if you game plan for both of them, Arthur will come off the bench and go off. This is why none other than Charles Barkley himself predicted that Memphis would win the series…because it’s a significant matchup problem for San Antonio on the front line. That’s just a fact.

  • Hobson13

    You’re right. We have to guard him better, but the real issue is Z-Bo not Gasol. From what I saw, Randolph took up so much of our attention that Gasol on many instances was able to get free. Plus, he really did have some out of this world plays for his skillset and ability. You read this statement so many times because everyone agrees that Gasol does not have the ability to repeat that level of play over a 7 game series. He’s not Pau.

  • memphismaphia

    So, in other words, we beat you at your own game. You’re free to use whatever mental gymnastics help you to sleep at night, but admit it. All of this chest puffing is just fake BS. I know that you Spurs fans are smarter than this, and that deep down you have to be pissing your pants.

  • Jesse Blanchard

    It’s not about a false sense of security so much as it’s just a lack of panic. This could very well be a tough series, and there’s a chance the Grizz might pull a huge upset. But you have to understand, most Spurs fans have seen Game 1 happen enough times with this group that it’s not going to bother them too much. The ones that are, well, they’d be yelling Fire Pop no matter what happened.

    If we can be realistic here, the game was called consistent on both sides and the Grizzlies spent a lot of time swiping and bumping and tripping. Fouls are fouls, even if there are 47 free throw attempts. On the other hand, it was brilliant strategy to foul so often. You have no ground to stand on when complaining about the refs.

    And I know fluke sounds offensive, but realize I used that word last year when Dirk went 12-14 in Game 1. And he’s far better than Gasol offensively. That does not mean Marc won’t shoot his 55% and knock in a few midrange jumpers. But it does mean he won’t be shooting 9-10 again. And at 55% Sunday, the Spurs win.

  • Bruno

    In other words, Spurs without his best player and Hill/Parker/Dice playing bad, they lost only by 3. Interesting

  • Bruno

    In other words, Spurs without his best player and Hill/Parker/Dice playing bad, they lost only by 3. Interesting

  • Bruno

    In other words, Spurs without his best player and Hill/Parker/Dice playing bad, they lost only by 3. Interesting

  • memphismaphia

    Yikes…this is getting kind of sad to watch. Maybe I’m giving Spurs fans too much credit.

  • Aztekk

    Yawn cant even sniff the floor in Dallas, and you think he would be useful to the Spurs? There is a legit reason the Spurs gave up on him. Hes not good big man material.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Yeah, I actually thought that Memphis deliberately fouled rather often in order to slow down the Spurs’ break. It’s a strategy that’s frequently employed against fast-paced teams. Additionally, the Spurs are so good at patiently swinging the ball around until somebody’s open that I thought Memphis was also using fouls to disrupt the Spurs’ half-court offense.

    It was a good game overall. Could’ve gone either way. I don’t think either team should be particularly sure of a series win based on it. It has the looks of a six- or seven-game series, although Manu might change that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZSJZX2F5EDO5U6HF3JUIRDF7FE Deejay

    Just realized Memphis has fans, too. Where were you years ago?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZSJZX2F5EDO5U6HF3JUIRDF7FE Deejay

    Why do the haters from Memphis (where is it ?) say the same things as the losers? Flopping? Lots of players do that and it does work. Barea is the no. 1 flopper now. Hit him on the chest, his head tilts back.