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Spurs, Grizzlies square off in 4th playoff series since '11
By TERESA M. WALKER
Nobody in the NBA has played against each other in the playoffs since 2011 more than the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
And with the exception of 2011, the Spurs have simply dominated the Grizzlies.
So much so that Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph focuses only on the pain of being swept in the 2013 Western finals and again last year in the first round . His incredible performance in 2011 - when the Grizzlies pulled off a stunning upset as an 8 seed over the West's best - fades away.
"That's what sticks in my mind more, getting swept and them beating us the last couple years, so let's hope (we) go back to 2011," Randolph said.
The Spurs roll into this first-round series, which starts Saturday night with Game 1 in San Antonio, as the No. 2 seed in the West with 61-21 regular-season record that was second only to Golden State in the NBA. The Grizzlies slumped to the seventh seed by going 9-15 after the All-Star break and limp into the postseason going 1-5 in April.
Last year the Grizzlies were swept with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley both sidelined by season-ending injuries. Both are healthy and have turned in the best seasons of their careers, helping Memphis split the season series with its Southwest Division rival.
These teams last met March 4 when Conley forced out of a 95-89 overtime loss in San Antonio after being head-butted by Kawhi Leonard late in the fourth quarter. Conley needed 13 stitches below his right eyebrow for that cut.
"Yeah I've been seeing those guys too often lately," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Friday. "But good. I think they are fresh on our minds. We know them, they know us. It's a tough team as we all know, but we are optimistic. We know that if we play our best game we have a good chance, so looking forward to it."
The Spurs lead Memphis 14-4 all-time in the postseason, including a sweep in the Grizzlies' first postseason berth back in 2004. Coach Gregg Popovich said none of that matters.
"Every night is a new game," Popovich said. "You've just got to deal with that."
Some things to know about this series:
a href(equals)'https://apnews.com/0835190123e545d48a405a70be2ae79b/Second-Act:-Spurs-excelling-after-Tim-Duncan's-departure'CHANGING SPURS:/a Yes, Parker and Ginobili remain on the roster, their 15th season together. But this is the first season in San Antonio for Pau Gasol, who started his career with Memphis and is Marc's older brother. Pau is one of seven new additions to the Spurs this season. That includes three rookies - Davis Bertans, Dewayne Dedmon and Dejounte Murray - along with veteran David Lee. "It's a lot different," Parker said.
POP VS. FIZDALE: Popovich has guided the Spurs to the longest postseason streak in major league sports with this now the 20th berth for San Antonio. This is the Grizzlies' seventh straight with Fizdale the third different coach in that span, and this is his postseason debut as a head coach. "For me personally, I know everybody's looking at this going: `Here's the greatest coach in the league, and here's the youngest guy, and he doesn't have a chance,'" Fizdale said. "So, for me, it frees my mind. I'm taking free swings at Pop right now. He's supposed to beat me. But I have a lot of confidence in me. I have a lot of confidence in this team."
BEYOND THE ARC: San Antonio led the NBA shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range. The Grizzlies just turned in their best season yet shooting 3s and ranked 14th in the league making an average of 9.3 3s per game. A key shooter? All-Star center Marc Gasol, who made 12 combined over his first eight seasons, knocked down 104 this season.
GUARDING KAWHI: Leonard led the Spurs averaging 25.5 points a game, and Grizzlies defensive whiz Tony Allen is out indefinitely with a a href(equals)'https://apnews.com/f7cbf8cc94b443758d64133244ffee0f/Grizzlies'-Allen-out-indefinitely-with-strained-calf-muscle'strained right calf./a That leaves Fizdale trying to figure who to use and hopefully slow down Leonard.
KEEP IN FRONT OF CONLEY: The Grizzlies guard, who signed the a href(equals)'http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bc14ebb668f94bbeb663c8d7f907b5ef/grizzlies-conlehttp:/bigstory.ap.org/article/bc14ebb668f94bbeb663c8d7f907b5ef/grizzlies-conley-says-big-contract-wont-affect-his-playy-says-big-contract-wont-affect-his-play'NBA's richest contract last summer at $153 million/a over five years, a href(equals)'https://apnews.com/9a5036c097b541979bdb94f69bd07a2c/Grizzlies'-Conley-has-best-season-after-record-setting--deal'leads Memphis with 20.5 points per game/a. "He's the head of the snake," Parker said.
AP Freelance Writers Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, and Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.
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Updated April 14, 2017