Will it be an unwelcome déjà vu for San Antonio?

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc..

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc.. Pic: NBA.com

San Antonio took care of home court in contrasting fashion to take a 2-0 series lead over Memphis and will now look to avoid repeating their collapse of 12 months ago.

The 2012 Western Conference Final started with the Spurs taking a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma before suffering defeat in the next four games and crashing out of the Playoffs.

Tony Parker eluded to their ‘nightmare’ before the series insisting that making the most of their home court advantage was vital and that last year’s defeat has been a motivation since training camp.

The Grizzlies are certainly capable of forcing San Antonio to re-live their collapse having already reeled off four straight victories in BOTH rounds so far, beating the Clippers 4-2 before a 4-1 win over last year’s Western victors OKC.

However, things haven’t quite clicked for Memphis just yet and their opponents have taken full advantage. Their head-coach, Lionel Hollins can at least take heart from the way his side battled back in Game 2 to force overtime but will be looking for All-Star Zach Randolph to have more of an impact on the series.

The opening game saw the Spurs get HOT from downtown in a dominant franchise record breaking performance (see tweet below) while the second was the ‘Tony Parker Show’ before holding their nerve in OT to go two up in the series. And this time it was the turn of Conley to pay tribute to TP9:

“Tony’s great, one of the best in the league! The draw and kick was effective and when you have a player creating a lot of plays it just puts pressure on the defence,” the Memphis guard added after going 0-2 down.

A 23-8 start to the series laid the foundation for an impressive beginning for Gregg Popovich‘s side as their lead grew to as many as 28 POINTS. San Antonio only needed six points from Tim Duncan in the 105-83 rout while the Grizzlies needed a lot more than the two points provided by Randolph.

His fortunes changed in Game 2, and in turn they changed for Memphis. However, not drastically as Randolph started the game going 1-10 before improving to 6-18 from the field for 15 points along with 18 rebounds while his front-court partner (and DPOY) Marc Gasol added 12p/14r.

San Antonio were out-rebounded 60-46 and gave up an 18 point lead which resulted in an extra period but they had all five starters in double-figures while Parker dished out a career-Playoff high 18 assists. The hosts enjoyed more minutes from Tiago Splitter and 14 more points this time around following the Brazilian‘s scoreless effort in the series opener.

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are proving deadly 3-point shooters for the Spurs which makes them an effective team from outside considering the strengths of Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner coming off the bench. Memphis on the other hand, are not prolific shooters from beyond the arc and would much rather work the ball inside to either one of Z-Bo or Gasol and happily play out an old fashioned three point play.

The series is far from over and Memphis will be encouraged by their battling display to force OT in Game 2 while San Antonio will look to steal a game on the road to cast aside any lingering comparisons to their 2012 WC Finals.

Both sides will now get a few days extra rest as Miami and Indiana play their opening two games of the series and Duncan believes this period will benefit the Spurs.

Speaking about the break, the 3x NBA Finals MVP added: “It’s huge! Coming off the last game and now this physical series, we will be refreshed going into hostile territory. It will be a tough game in Memphis but we will use this time to be re-energised.”

Game 3 in Memphis takes place on Saturday @ 9pm Eastern Time which will equate to the early hours of Sunday morning in the UK.

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Pau Gasol praises brother Marc ahead of ‘tough challenge’

Brothers at war: Marc and Pau will go head-to-head

Brothers at war: Marc and Pau will go head-to-head

Pau Gasol admits that the Lakers are ‘fighting for their lives’ as they attempt to survive an enduring season and reach the end of season play-offs.

“Every game is a big deal and the next two will be very tough,” said the 32 year-old Spaniard.

The 16-time NBA champions take on Memphis and their rivals LA Clippers in their next two games as they look to hold on to 8th spot in the Western conference.

Memphis have already secured their place in the post-season and have already surpassed their previous season win total high with 51 victories so far. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have combined well for the Grizzlies and the duo received praise from (Pau) Gasol.

“They both are very physical players and are great rebounders. They have found a good combination that works well for them.”

“My brother is a great passer and is making plays for the team all the time. It will be a big challenge!”
Pau on Marc

It’s all love and respect between Pau and Marc Gasol off the court, but they will go head-to-head in battle at the Staples Centre in an important game for the Lakers. Here’s how the brothers compare so far this campaign:

PAU GASOL: 42 games; 35 starts; 13.0 ppg; 45.5% FG; 69.5% FT; 8.0 rpg; 3.6 apg; 11 double-doubles; Most points- 25.

MARC GASOL:  73 games (all starts); 14.4 ppg; 49.8% FG; 85.6% FT; 7.6 rpg; 3.9 apg; 15 double-doubles; Most points- 27

LA’s Gasol has only recently returned from a foot injury that sidelined him for around 7 weeks and during his absence, the Lakers compiled a 13-7 record to overtake Utah in the race for the final play-off spot. The Lakers positive run of results has coincided with the return of Dwight Howard’s form.

Howard has been revitalised since the All-Star break and joining in on the current NBA streak craze, ‘Superman’ has recorded 12 straight double-doubles and is confident the Lakers can overcome the challenge of Memphis.

“If we play like we have the last two games then I believe we can win. When me and Pau (Gasol) are active it makes things tougher for the other teams.”

Speaking about his own form, Howard said: “I’m getting better, I’m not where I want to be but I’m happy with my progress.”

The 6’11” centre sustained an injured shoulder in the last meeting between the two sides when the Lakers suffered their second defeat in Memphis this season.

The Lakers are currently half a game ahead of Utah while Dallas loiter further behind and Mike D’Antoni’s side can still improve on eighth position with Golden State and Houston still to play in their seven remaining games. The Warriors and Rockets are not too far ahead but a first round clash with San Antonio or Oklahoma looks the most likely scenario should LA make the play-offs.

Game Night! ft. OKC @ Memphis

STUNNING COMEBACK KEEPS STREAK GOING; MEMPHIS EDGE OUT OKC & LOPEZ LEADS NETS TO WIN ON ESPN

Memphis Grizzlies (46-21) kept up their chances of catching OKC (50-19) after beating their Western rivals 90-89 in an overtime battle. The home side looked in control during the first half before the Thunder fought back to take the lead and it needed a late triple from to force the game beyond regulation.

During the extra period, it was the visitors who edged ahead once more before Marc Gasol snatched the victory with the tip-in just before the final buzzer. The Spaniard and All-Star team-mate Zach Randolph combined for 29 points and 33 rebounds in the win with Mike Conley top scoring with 24 points while Kevin Durant had a game-high 32.

Conley: “It’s always good to win a game like that especially against one of the best teams in the league! This says a lot about our confidence as a team; believing we can win regardless.”

Miami Heat (53-14) pulled off an unbelievable comeback from 27 points down to take their win streak to 24 games after beating Cleveland (22-46) 98-95. LeBron James continues to demonstrate his MVP potential with a vital triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists and had a personal 8-0 run to give Miami the lead at the start of the fourth while Mario Chalmers contributed a further 17 points as the visitors netted TWELVE triples during the win.

The Cavs (still without Kyrie Irving) used a 19-0 run in the second quarter to assert their authority and opened up a commanding lead at 67-40 in the third quarter. Shane Battier nailed two three’s in the middle of a 15-1 burst before Daniel Gibson‘s late triple gave the hosts a 77-68 lead going into the fourth,where Miami took over. However, despite the nine-point lead being reversed, the home side kept battling and closed to within a point in the final minute after seven unanswered points before James sunk two crucial free throws and Miami held on.

LeBron: “It was one of the best comebacks I’ve been a part of. The streak wasn’t on my mind but getting blown out was!”

The New York Knicks (40-26) closed in on second place in the East after a comfortable 106-94 win at home to Orlando (18-51) as Carmelo Anthony added 21 points and 8 rebounds on his return to the team. Anthony Davis tipped in the game winner in New Orleans as the Hornets (23-46) recorded a narrow 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics (36-31) despite a 28 point haul from Paul Pierce. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn (40-28) to a 113-96 win over Dallas (32-36) after an impressive 38 points and 11 rebounds while Deron Williams added 31 in the ESPN fixture and Reggie Evans pulled down 22 boards.

San Antonio (52-16) used a dominant second quarter display to propel them to a 104-93 success at home to the Golden State Warriors (39-31) with Tim Duncan stepping up with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. LA Clippers (47-22) eased to a 101-72 victory against Philadelphia (26-41) while Washington (24-43) collected an 88-79 win on the road against the Phoenix Suns (23-46).

Houston Rockets (37-31) earned a vital win in a play-off battle at home to Utah Jazz (34-34) with James Harden‘s 29 points leading the way. Atlanta Hawks (38-30) were guided to a 98-90 win against the Milwaukee Bucks (34-33) by Jeff Teague‘s double-double of 27 points and 11 assists. In the final game, the Charlotte Bobcats (16-52) defeated the Toronto Raptors (26-42) 107-101 for their second win in a row.

Check-out highlights of Miami‘s historic win in Cleveland (NBA):

Wade- “Winning streak is something special”

'WOW' Way of Wade in action

‘WOW’ Way of Wade in action

Dwyane Wade is expecting a tough challenge from Miami’s next two opponents as they look to continue their win streak.

Miami have won their last TWELVE games as they sit clear at the top of the Eastern Conference standings with a 41-14 and take on Memphis tonight before a game in New York on Sunday against the Knicks.

“Memphis are coming in very hot and an early game in New York, I’ll like to see how we respond,” the Heat guard admitted.

“Every game is different! We have confidence as a team but this is a different challenge for us now.”

The 31 year-old had a season-high 39 points in the win over Sacramento in double-OT as he combined with team-mate LeBron James for 79 in total. The dynamic duo were in top form throughout February as Miami began their winning streak with James averaging an incredible 29.7ppg and Wade contributing 23.9 a game.

Wade described Memphis as a ‘physical team’ and praised the partnership of All-Star Zach Randolph and Spanish international Marc Gasol. LeBron also paid tribute to the duo after alluding to the impressive EIGHT game win-streak for the Grizzlies.

“Marc Gasol has one of the biggest IQ’s in the game and Z-Bo is just a walking double-double, his nickname is 20-10,”

The reigning MVP has been thrilling the Miami crowd in recent weeks with some breathtaking pre-game dunks but LeBron insists he is not concerned about the criticism he has received for not participating in the annual Slam Dunk Contest.

“I don’t care. I get criticised for everything! I don’t need props and capes and cheerleaders,  I just do it!”

Another highlight dunk could be on the cards at the American Airlines Arena prior to the Grizzlies game in a battle of the win streaks in Miami. The last time the two sides met it was Memphis who got the W with a 104-86 home triumph back in November.