NBA Playoffs: Defensive Battle Looming In Western Conference Finals

By Connor Paden

Apr 12, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) takes a shot over Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (right) during the second half at the AT

The storylines of the Western Conference Finals will have basketball fans on the edge of their seats. The San Antonio Spurs verses the Memphis Grizzlies. The experience of Tony Parker verses the youth of Mike Conley Jr. The extent to which well-coached team can manage the game and execute their plan to perfection.

But the storyline that only real basketball fans are going to truly appreciate is that of the defensive battle about to take place. Both of these teams are preparing for war. These are two tough-minded, defensive oriented teams that are ready for a tussle.

Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter have already proven they can manage the toughness and size of some of the best bigs in the league. Duncan and his partner-in-the-post resorted to their sound fundamentals to help the Spurs sweep Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers. After a test of the undersized, not under-hearted, Golden State Warriors, the Spurs will again face size and physicality from two of the best big men in the game.

When it comes to toughness of duos, Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are the cream of the crop. Nobody in the NBA loves to bump, grind, push and shove as much as these two do. Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers can attest to that. Griffin was bumped by Randolph up and down the court for six games during the first round of this year’s playoffs. Meanwhile Gasol won this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Grizzlies had statistically the best defense in the NBA during the regular season, only allowing 89.3 points per game. The Spurs have experienced toughness though, that can only come from Duncan’s four NBA Championship rings. A brawl is definitely in order.

The two teams split their four matchups during the regular season, but those games a tough gage of how this series may play out. Rudy Gay played for the Grizzlies during the first three before Tayshaun Prince was brought in as a, believe it or not, defensive upgrade. Memphis won the only contest in the post-Rudy Gay era 92-90 when Conley Jr. made a lay-up with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. The Spurs played that game without Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard.

Duncan, however, averaged 19.7 points against Memphis this season while neither Gasol nor Randolph averaged above 15 points against Spurs.

This upcoming battle between two of the toughest frontcourts in the NBA will be a heavyweight bout for the ages. While these divisional foes respect each other, they certainly are ready to wage a grind-it-out war. Tip-off for Game 1 is set for 2:30 CST.