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The Sports Daily > Project Spurs
Project Spurs Playbook: Return to the Grindhouse of Horrors

The San Antonio Spurs nearly coughed up a 26-point lead on Monday night, before flipping a switch in the fourth quarter to cruise to a 96-82 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Though the Spurs found a way to secure the victory, the Grizzlies outscoring San Antonio 45-40 should be enough for Gregg Popovich and the coaching staff to get in some solid yelling while preparing for Game 3.

Before sinking into the Spurs gameplan for the road portion of this series, let’s look back at what adjustments we suggested for Game 2.

1) Marc Gasol finished with only 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting and six rebounds in Game 2. Though he was ineffective for most of the night, the Spurs didn’t play him any differently. A majority of his attempts still came against LaMarcus Aldridge, finishing 2-for-8 against him as a primary defender. Gasol just looked uncomfortable early as he started the game 0-for-6. Despite a few nice moves in the second half, he was entirely neutralized. Verdict: Success

2) San Antonio started the game up 13-7 with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. Not exactly the fastest start, but Kawhi Leonard did start the game with a bit of a haymaker:

Verdict: Success

3) After logging 14 minutes in Game 1, Jonathon Simmons played a staggering zero minutes in Game 2. No garbage time. No injury minutes. No ‘Angry Pop doing hockey substitutions’ minutes. Simmons just enjoyed the view with Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes. Verdict: Failure

Heading into Thursday night’s game, the Spurs have successfully neutralized Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, survived an epic collapse fueled by the resurgence of Zach Randolph and secured a 2-0 series lead. Here is what’s on tap for Game 3:

APPROPRIATE FEAR

This could be applied to countless story-lines in this series, especially after the potential choke job the Spurs avoided in Game 2. In this instance, the appropriate fear involves the FedEx Forum.

Since 2011, the Spurs are 11-10 (regular season and playoffs) when playing on the road in Memphis, including 0-2 this season. Though one of those losses this season was sans Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs struggles inside the friendly confines of The Grindhouse are well documented.

Maintaining an appropriate fear and focus on the road will be San Antonio’s best chance at escaping Memphis without a case of the Beale Street Blues.

GRIT-‘N’-WHINE

Did you know Leonard attempted more free throws in Game 2 than the Grizzlies did as a team? You might have heard about that in head coach David Fizdale’s postgame press conference that cost him $30,000.

Though his rant may have been more of an attempt to coerce the officials into a few more favorable whistles the Grizzlies way than actual anger at the incompetence of officiating, there’s no doubt something San Antonio is doing is getting under their skin.

If Fizdale really wants us to take any data from the series, everyone’s favorite Spurs beat guy, Jeff McDonald, shut that noise down on Tuesday with a solid tweet thread.

Aldridge is getting away with plenty of physicality in the paint and the Spurs have managed to do a better job defending the interior against Memphis’ style of play than most anticipated. Gasol and Randolph may notch a couple more free throws in Game 3, but their goal should be to keep Dewayne Dedmon on the floor as much as possible. He may be San Antonio’s best defensive big, but his lack of size and offense could cripple the Spurs in this series, which explains why he’s seen his minutes decrease from 18 per game in the regular season to just 14.

MORE ESPRESSO

Are we sure Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills were consuming espresso with Boris Diaw, or have they been tricked into drinking decaf?

The international backcourt duo is a combined 4-for-21 in the first two games, resulting in a grand total of 14 points.

And all of those points belong to Mills.

It’s hard to pinpoint why both guards are struggling with their shot so much. With Ginobili, you can make the case that facing young, athletic guards will always make his life hell, but Mills is missing plenty of good looks that he usually knocks down with ease.

From his 1-for-9 performance on Monday, several of Mills’ jumpers missed short of the rim which could signal tired legs. After all, he’s been playing basketball all summer because of the Olympics.

Tony Parker may be channeling his prime, but if he tails off the slightest bit, Mills needs to be there to pick up the slack. The jumpers will eventually fall even if it takes him adjusting to his worn out body.

Or we can blame his poor performance on the extra weight added by his new hairstyle.