Insider offers a breakdown of every playoff series using an expert combination of scouting from Amin Elhassan and advanced metrics from Bradford Doolittle to answer three crucial questions. Also included are predictions from the writers and the classic Log5 formula for determining matchup probabilities.
It's a rematch of the 2011 first-round matchup, and although many of the faces have changed, the principals remain the same.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the NBA's "new age" darlings playing an old-school style with bigs who actually play in the paint. And they are on a playoff "revenge" tour, having defeated the two teams that knocked them out of the postseason the last two seasons (Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder).
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs are the "old reliables" who successfully married today's pace-and-space offensive principles with execution and defensive tenacity. San Antonio easily dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round but was tested by the upstart Golden State Warriors.
Memphis is the first playoff club seeded fifth or lower to reach the conference finals since the Utah Jazz in 2007 and just the 11th do so since the ABA-NBA merger 36 years ago. Just three have advanced beyond that, the last being the Knicks in 1999. Of course, the Grizzlies aren't just any 5-seed. Their 56 regular-season wins matched the post-merger record for teams seeded that low.
And since Memphis traded away leading scorer Rudy Gay on Jan. 30, only Indiana and San Antonio have been better on the defensive end. But whereas Memphis has never made it this far, San Antonio has now reached the West finals eight times during Tim Duncan's career. That, as much as anything, is why the Spurs enter the series as prohibitive favorites. Here's a scouting preview of the Grizzlies-Spurs Western Conference finals matchup.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs
Western Conference playoffs