Memphis is one series away from the NBA Finals while its opponent, the Spurs, look to get back to the championship for the fifth time.
Both of these teams took shortcuts to get here. They weren’t wrong in their route, but very fortunate.
Zach Randolph’s postseason numbers:
Field goal percentage: 51 percent
To get to the Western Conference finals, Memphis outlasted a strong Clippers team in the first round then caught Oklahoma City without a legitimate top-10 player in Russell Westbrook.
San Antonio had an even easier path, sweeping a Lakers squad decimated by injuries and surviving a young and inexperienced Warriors series (David Lee played, but he was nowhere close to 100 percent).
The Spurs and Grizzlies are excellent teams. Either of them will make for a tough opponent in the NBA Finals. For the sake of ratings, the league and ABC must pray for the Miami Heat to come out of the East because a series with either of these two and Indiana will spell ratings disaster.
Tim Duncan is still the leader of the Spurs with Tony Parker directing all traffic. They have help in Manu Ginobili and other role players. But they’re old and it’s doubtful Duncan on his own will be able to handle the physicality of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Gasol was Defensive Player of the Year and Z-Bo can bully anybody in the paint. Keeping him off the boards is like withholding meat in a cage full of lions.
Memphis’ Tony Allen is one of the toughest defensive players in the NBA, he will probably check Parker and harass him the entire series.
Defense and rebounding will be key in this series. Memphis is better than San Antonio in both of those categories.
The pick: Grizzlies in six.