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Western Conference finals preview

Spurs have the experience, but Grizzlies, with a rising star in Mike Conley, get the edge in desire.

May 18, 2013
  • Memphis Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph (50) and Marc Gasol (33) will battle with San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan.
Memphis Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph (50) and Marc Gasol (33) will battle… (Andy Lyons / Getty Images )

2 San Antonio vs. 5 Memphis

Season series: Tied, 2-2.

Key stat: Memphis is averaging a league-low 11.1 turnovers a game in the playoffs, with point guard Mike Conley averaging only 1.9 turnovers in 38.5 minutes.

Outlook: Both teams will have to hit the reboot button to prepare for a dramatically different opponent than they faced in the previous round. Having vanquished guard-oriented Golden State, San Antonio must deal with the interior tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who are averaging a combined 38 points and 17.2 rebounds in the playoffs. Memphis shifts from trying to contain a superstar in Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant to taking on a far more balanced team that relies on spacing and precision passing. While the core of each team remains nearly intact from two years ago, when the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upset the top-seeded Spurs in the first round, San Antonio appears better equipped to handle Memphis' frontcourt duo thanks to a resurgent Tim Duncan and an improved Tiago Splitter. Spurs reserve forwards Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner also could help stretch the floor against a feisty Grizzlies defense that uses its length and athleticism to force turnovers and bad shots. But San Antonio must contend with Memphis' guard tandem of Conley, who continues to emerge as one of the top point guards in the league, and Tony Allen, a top perimeter defender.

Prediction: In the battle of been there (the Spurs have made it to the conference finals eight times since 1999) versus want that (the Grizzlies are making their first appearance), the newbie prevails. Grizzlies in seven.

—Ben Bolch

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