MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — On the best playoff run in their short history, the Memphis Grizzlies refuse to be satisfied with just reaching their first Western Conference final.
The San Antonio Spurs? Well, they know time is running out for a team that has done so very much in the NBA playoffs yet last celebrated a championship in 2007.
Blowing a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals a year ago to Oklahoma City has driven the Spurs since training camp, and now they are back with Game 1 on Sunday against Memphis determined not to waste another chance.
"We understand as a team that those opportunities are very rare, and we have another great one right now," Spurs guard Tony Parker said Saturday. "We have home-court advantage against a very good team, so we have to take full advantage of it."
The Grizzlies are the former expansion franchise that started off in Vancouver before moving to Memphis, and they started by setting the NBA record for postseason futility while losing their first 12 playoff games.
Coach Lionel Hollins, who won an NBA title in 1977 as a player with Portland, has his Grizzlies believing they can win one, too. The No. 5 seed in the West ousted first the Clippers, then the Thunder by winning eight of its last nine games, including three of four on the road.
"We're just worried about going forward," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. "We're happy to be here, but we're still focused on bigger things, and we got another tough opponent."
That would be the Spurs with Tim Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili who swept the Grizzlies out of their first postseason in 2004. When Memphis finally won a postseason series, they beat the Spurs in six games in 2011, kicking off that series by winning the first game in San Antonio. Ginobili said the Spurs were not at their best that series and struggled to stop the Grizzlies' big men in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
"We started with the wrong foot, we lost the first one and they got stronger and confident, and that's how they beat us," Ginobili said.
This conference final pits Southwest Division rivals, with the Spurs as the dominating big brother with their four NBA championships and the fifth-best all-time winning percentage in the league since this franchise moved to the NBA in 1976. No coach and player have more postseason games than San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and Duncan with 200 over 16 seasons.
The Spurs clinched the No. 2 seed in the West winning just two more games than the Grizzlies.
This should be a defensive showdown between teams built around big men with Memphis countering Duncan with 7-foot-1 Gasol and Randolph down low. Memphis held teams to an NBA-low 89.3 points during the regular season, and the Spurs tied for third in defensive efficiency. The Grizzlies also were second defending the 3, which could slow down Parker and Ginobili.
"Finding ways to score is going to be very difficult," Popovich said. "Just playing against their defense is enough of a concern right off the bat."
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