What Do the Grizzlies' Back-to-Back Wins Mean for the Rest of the Series?

Tied at two games apiece, how likely is it that Memphis pulls the upset over San Antonio?

As the NBA playoffs got underway less than 10 days ago, our algorithms gave the Memphis Grizzlies just a 17.06% chance of making it out of their first-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. At that, the most likely outcome (at 28.43%) was a Spurs win in five games.

Four games in, a five-game victory for the Spurs is no longer in the cards. The two teams have held serve at home and are tied 2-2 as the series shifts back to San Antonio for Game 5.

Riding the momentum of two straight wins, do the Grizzlies have the advantage?

Appears So

In their Game 3 and Game 4 victories, the Grizzlies won by 11 and 2 points (in overtime), respectively.

Surprisingly, their net rating of 5.9 in those two contests is a product of their improved offensive efficiency rather than their sustained defensive efficiency.

Grizzlies Offense Off. Rating eFG% TS%
43 Regular Season Wins 109.4 52.0% 56.1%
2 Playoff Wins 111.8 55.0% 60.3%
Difference 2.4 3.0% 3.9%

What sticks out when comparing the Grizzlies' last two wins to their 43 regular season wins is that their free-throw attempt rate of .277 is identical throughout. While they've averaged 22 attempts and 20 makes from the charity stripe through two postseasons wins, Memphis shot an average of 23 free throws and converted 18.3 of them in their regular season victories. So, their aggressiveness and efficiency at which they've capitalized on fouls is key.

Even more obvious has been the Grizzlies' effectiveness from three, where they've averaged 24.5 attempts and 42.9% shooting (for 10.5 makes per game) in Games 3 and 4. The key contributors in that area have been Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Vince Carter, who have shot a combined 12 of 23 (52.2%) in the last two games.

Speaking of the two-headed monster of Conley and Gasol, they have put up -- against the NBA's top defense -- 48 points per game between them in the last two. Conley himself has produced 59 points on 55.6% shooting and 46.2% from three.

Furthermore, Zach Randolph has backed up the duo with 16.5 points per game in their two wins. He has definitely gotten the better of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol down low, which has contributed to Conley and Gasol's successes against their defenders.

As great as Memphis has been, though, should the Spurs really be all that worried going forward?

Not Really

Contrary to popular belief, our models say no.

After a pair of wins on each side of the matchup, the Spurs still hold a 75.58% probability of making it out of their first-round matchup. The Grizzlies' odds increased by just 7.36 percentage points since the inception of the series and have, at the very least, guaranteed a six-game series. Although, our numbers, at a 41.27% likelihood, most like the Spurs to finish it off in Memphis in Game 6.

This lack of a shift in our algorithms can probably be attributed to three things -- the first being the Grizzlies' performance in Games 1 and 2. Take a look for yourself.

Grizzlies Splits Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating
Games 3-4 111.8 105.9 5.9
Games 1-2 96.0 118.2 -25.6
Difference -15.8 12.3 -19.7

Overall, the Grizzlies' offense and defense have both been much less efficient, resulting in a -25.6 net rating in two losses.

On offense, the Grizzlies shot just 38.5% from the field and knocked down just 7 three-point makes on 29.8% shooting in Game 1 and Game 2. Even their free throw attempts were down to 16.0 per game (which probably played a part in coach David Fizdale's "take that for data" rant).

Defensively, Memphis was far from the juggernaut they've been in years past. In San Antonio, they allowed the Spurs to shoot to an effective field goal percentage of 57.3% on 45.2% from long range. They were also hit up for 28.5 free throw attempts per game.

This all speaks to a much larger, ongoing issue for the Grizzlies, and that is their performance away from The Grindhouse this season.

Grizzlies SplitsOff. RatingDef. RatingNet Rating

Oddly enough, the Grizzlies were better offensively when taking to the road in the regular season. However, their defense was more than six points worse per 100 possessions. That has made for a road record of 19-22 in 41 games, compared to 24-17 in the friendly confines of the FedExForum.

Again, on one hand, the Grizzlies actually shot better on the road during the regular season, but their opponents also shot better while winning the rebounding battle.

As if the Grizzlies weren't already fighting an uphill battle, the Spurs have been outstanding at home this season. In 41 regular season contests, they were 31-10 with an offensive rating of 108.8, defensive rating of 100.0, and a net rating of 8.8. Their defensive efficiency at home was second only to the Golden State Warriors, and their net rating ranks fourth when playing in San Antonio.

Digging deeper, the Spurs were second in the league in allowing just 7.6 three-point makes (on 34.1% shooting) on their home floor. In addition, they allowed just 97.5 points per game, something I'm sure they don't intend to change in Game 5 Tuesday night.

To make matters worse, under head coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs are 5-0 in Game 5 when tied 2-2 through four games of a playoff series.

If you're the Grizzlies, you can't feel bad about your Game 3 and 4 performances, but that doesn't mean much against the powerhouse Spurs. Mike Conley and the rest of the Grizzlies will have to take their home games on the road if they want to get past the first round.