The San Antonio Spurs look to go up 3-0 over the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in Game 3 of their first round matchup of the NBA Playoffs.
But with Game 3 looming, here is the Spurs' X-factor: The bench.
In Game 2, Memphis received a huge boost from their bench by outscoring San Antonio’s 31-19. It would be in large part of the play of Zach Randolph (14.8 points per game off the bench in the playoffs) who bounced back from a mediocre Game 1 performance to dropping a double-double, 18 points and 10 rebounds.
For San Antonio, their performance in Game 2 took a step back to their output in Game 1. Although Kawhi Leonard torched the Grizzlies for 37 points, the San Antonio bench needs to play better tonight, and it starts with Patty Mills.
Mills had a bad shooting performance as he went 1-of-9 from the floor including 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. A dramatic change from his Game 1 output of nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor, 3-of-3 from the 3-point line.
Pau Gasol has proven to be a great asset off the bench for San Antonio in Game 2. In 29 minutes Gasol finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor with one of his two made three’s coming late in the game which gave energy back to a Spurs team that saw a Grizzlies squad battle back from 26 points to bring the game to within four.
Outside of Gasol, there was not much scoring coming from the bench. Manu Ginobili had his second game in a row where he did not score. So far in this series, he is a mere 0-for-8 from the floor. He will not put up huge points anymore at this point in his career but he does need to provide six to eight and that will be a big boost, not only for San Antonio, but his confidence as well.
Also would be good to see Jonathon Simmons and Davis Bertans get some time on the floor. Bertans can stretch the floor with his shooting and Simmons just brings his athletic ability.
Note this is the same Spurs' bench that outscored opposing team's reserves in 22 of the final 27 games of the regular-season. They also led the league in assists per game (10.4), 3-point percentage (40%) and finished third in steals per game (3.66).
As the scene shifts to the FedEx Forum in Memphis and the San Antonio bench has to be locked and loaded. They are heading into enemy territory, a hostile crowd and facing a Memphis team with their season on the line.
It' going to take a total team effort tonight but having the Spurs' bench step up should help San Antonio put a vice grip on this series.