Spurs, Grizzlies set for Game 1 of Western Finals

The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will battle for the Western Conference title, starting with Game 1 Sunday afternoon at the AT&T Center.

The two teams split their four regular-season meetings with each team successfully defending their home-court. The Grizzlies are 5-0 at home during the postseason and 3-3 on the road. San Antonio is 4-1 in Alamo City during the playoffs and 4-1 away from the AT&T Center.

Their paths to this point, both this season and as organizations, are wildly different.

The Spurs are the benchmark franchise in the NBA. They've captured four NBA championships since 1999 and have made the Western Conference Finals eight of the last 15 years.

The Grizzlies are competing in their first Western Conference Finals in team history, a history that started in 1995 in Vancouver, British Columbia and eventually landed in Memphis in July 2001.

The Spurs swept a severely undermanned seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers team in the first round, then chased around the spectacular backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to beat the No. 6 Golden State Warriors in the semifinals.

Memphis bested the Los Angeles Clippers in six games during the first round. The Grizz toppled the top-seeded and reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, who played without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, in five games in Round 2.

"We're happy to be here, but we're still focused on bigger things," said Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. "We've got another tough opponent."

Defense is Memphis' calling card. The Grizzlies led the NBA in opponents' scoring during the regular season and were third in opponents' field-goal percentage.

The Spurs weren't slouches defensively during the regular season. They finished 11th in opponents' scoring and eighth in field-goal percentage.

Both teams have held their opponents under 94 ppg during the postseason.

"It's going to be a rough one," admitted Tim Duncan after the Spurs' Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriors. "It's not going to be pretty, sorry. It's just not going to be."

For the Spurs, Tony Parker has led the team in scoring during the postseason with 22.4 ppg. Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green are all scoring in double figures.

Memphis has seen a massive scoring improvement from their big three in these playoffs. Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year, are averaging 11.5 ppg more in the postseason than the regular season.

There is some postseason history between these two teams.

It was just two years ago when the Grizzlies became the third No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history to upset a No. 1. That top-ranked team was the Spurs. Back then, San Antonio had trouble with the front court of Memphis. However, Antonio McDyess was the starting center then, now it's Tiago Splitter.

"We're a different team then when we faced them a couple years ago," said Duncan. "With Tiago and the size we have that's going to be big for us. It's going to be a big-man series."

Game 2 will be Tuesday night in San Antonio.