Western Finals Showdown - The Surging Reds

EXTRA, EXTRA ...IT'S GRIZZLIES-SPURS IN NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS SHOWDOWN -

WE HAVE THE FULL PREVIEW PLUS A GAME-BY-GAME LOOK BACK AT THEIR REGULAR-SEASON (AND O.T.-FILLED) TILTS

THE BASEBALL REPORT: RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU KNEW THE CINCY REDS ENTERED THE WEEKEND AS MLB'S HOTTEST TEAM

By Jim Hurley:

How will the NBA's West be won this year?

Well, if you're a believer in the San Antonio Spurs - who now are making their eighth trip into the Western Conference Finals since the Tim Duncan Era first began way back in the 1997-98 season (see the chart below) - than you know the ancient-but-still-effective best power forward in league history may not have to be a dominant force a la 2003 or 2005 but he must fill up the stat sheet and play 30-or-so high-quality minutes per game.

But Duncan - a/k/a "The Big Fundamental" - needs point guard Tony Parker to score and dish and he needs key reserve Manu Ginobili (who still plays starter's minutes) to nail some twisting drives to the hoop but most of all the Spurs need to keep their cool.

You see, the Memphis Grizzlies - winners of eight of their last nine games SU (straight-up) in this year's playoffs and 8-3 SU overall this post-season - are fond of banging around their opponents and making things tough in a grind-out style.

In short, the more these NBA Western Conference Finals games are halting or start-and-stop affairs, the better it'll be for the Grizz who don't mind getting dirt under their collective fingernails.

The more the game flows freely with Parker, Ginboli and still-underrated young star Kawhi Leonard getting fast-break points (or uncontested hoops from in close) the better it'll be for the four-time champion Spurs.

One year after the Oklahoma City Thunder - remember them? - took the West by storm with a six-game series win against the Spurs (that's after getting behind in the series two games-to-none) there will be a new/old team that makes it out of the West for this year's NBA Finals ... now here's more:

On Sunday, it's ...WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#5 MEMPHIS at #2 SAN ANTONIO
- Game 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET; ABC-TV

As you can see from our accompanying chart of the four regular-season head-to-head games played between the Grizzlies and the Spurs, these clubs ain't separated by all that much!

The first two games went overtime with home sides prevailing by 4 and 3 points, respectively, and than there was that two-point tilt on April Fool's Day with just one blowout in the mix and - while many folks will be quick to tell you the Grizzlies have elevated their game and "have all the momentum" here, don't sleep on the Spurs who have quality depth, the best game coach left standing in these playoffs and a player in Parker who's quite capable of taking over the game like no one else on the court.

The game plan for Memphis here in Game 1 and throughout this best-of-seven game set is to keep Parker's drives to the tin at a bare minimum - Grizzlies PG Mike Conley is a solid defender but he'll need help against the still cat-quick Parker - and make San Antonio's big men play defense against the tag-team of Zach Randolph (19.7 points per game in the playoffs) and Marc Gasol (18.3 ppg/playoffs) who have been stat-sheet stuffers all throughout the post-season plus they've shown the tendency to wear down the opponents to boot.

Conley (17.6 ppg/playoffs) has been a tremendous third scoring option for the Grizz this post-season but something tells us he'll be spending lots of time/energy playing defense and so odds are Randolph and Gasol will need to score their averages (or better) for Memphis to get to its first-ever NBA Finals.

On the flip side, San Antonio not only needs Parker (22,4 ppg/playoffs), Duncan (18.7 ppg) and Ginboli (12.1 ppg) to get their points against the best defense they'll see this post-season, but those supporting cast players have to score for coach "Pops" and we'll single out wingman Danny Green (10 ppg and a 40 percent three-point shooter this post-season) as someone who'll have to deliver double-digit points in all/most of the games.

Hmm, sure smells like a seven-game series, right?

Here's the Grizzlies-Spurs regular-season series game-by-game re-cap (note home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

12-1

SAN ANTONIO

- 6

Memphis

99-95 (ot)

1-11

MEMPHIS

- 2

San Antonio

101-98 (ot)

1-16

SAN ANTONIO

- 6

Memphis

103-82

4-1

MEMPHIS

- 6.5

San Antonio

92-90

Take note ... Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to bash the Las Vegas books with this year's NBA Playoffs (on a 12-3 run after swweping Thursday with the Knicks and Spurs!) and there's lots more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead this 2013 post-season plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too -- so go ahead and sign up today and get it all as that's NBA and MLB winnin' action each and every day! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.

NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS HISTORY (1998-2012)

Okay, so here's a look at all the NBA Western Conference Final since Mr. Duncan began his pro career - count 'em up and you'll see this is San Antonio's eighth time in 16 years that they're playing for the right to make the NBA Finals. The Spurs are 4-3 in Western Conference Finals during this time while - of course - this marks the first time the Memphis Grizzlies have gotten this far in their Vancouver Memphis history:

YEAR WINNER SERIES LOSER
2012 Oklahoma City 4-2 SAN ANTONIO
2011 Dallas 4-1 Oklahoma City
2010 LA Lakers 4-2 Phoenix
2009 LA Lakers 4-2 Denver
2008 LA Lakers 4-1 SAN ANTONIO
2007 SAN ANTONIO 4-1 Utah
2006 Dallas 4-2 Phoenix
2005 SAN ANTONIO 4-1 Phoenix
2004 LA Lakers 4-2 Minnesota
2003 SAN ANTONIO 4-2 Dallas
2002 LA Lakers 4-3 Sacramento
2001 LA Lakers 4-0 SAN ANTONIO
2000 LA Lakers 4-3 Portland
1999 SAN ANTONIO 4-0 Portland
1998 Utah 4-0 LA Lakers


THE BASEBALL WEEKEND REPORT

The Cincinnati Reds have been - for all intents and purposes - an under-the-radar team so far this 2013 season.

Sure, most-in-the-know folks believe the Reds are the class of the National League Central - and you might recall that we here at Jim Sez picked Cincinnati to win the 2013 World Series over Detroit - but with all the other happenings 'round the major leagues the Reds really have not received much national attention but here were Dusty Baker's club with an MLB-best six-game winning streak while heading into the weekend set in Philadelphia. P.S., that streak was snapped in Friday night's 5-3 loss in Philadelphia.

Still, the formula has been sound for Cincy:

The Reds (now 25-17) have scored the second-most runs in the NL (198 or 4.71 runs per game) and they rank fourth in the senior circuit in team ERA (3.43) and it took all the way till this past Thursday night for star closer Aroldis Chapman to blow his first save in nine opportunities. Chapman - who almost became a starting pitcher this past spring training (a great non-move by the Reds!) - has fanned 30 batters in just 18.2 innings of work and he remains the sport's fiercest end-of-game hurler.

Consider that Cincinnati hasn't gotten nearly the power it hoped from RF Jay Bruce (just four home runs in his first 184 plate appearances) or that 3B Todd Frazier (.221 with 6 HRs) and SS Zack Cozart (.208 with just 20 runs scored) haven't chipped in much on offense and don't forget OF Ryan Ludwick went down on the bases on Opening Day and hasn't been seen since.

The fact remains the Reds strung together back-to-back three-game sweeps against Milwaukee and Miami - we know, no biggie, right? - and barely anyone noticed but the fact of the matter is Cincinnati is getting healthier - RHP Johnny Cueto is back this Monday against the New York Mets - and most of the bats have yet to sizzle.

Maybe there is a World Series in Cincinnati's 2013 future!

NOTE: Catch our NBA Playoff Previews and Re-Caps in the next edition of Jim Sez.

19
Aug
20
Aug

Today’s Hot Plays