Spurs vs. Grizzlies NBA Odds, Picks, Preview: Bet on a Low-Scoring Thriller (Wednesday, May 19)

Spurs vs. Grizzlies NBA Odds, Picks, Preview: Bet on a Low-Scoring Thriller (Wednesday, May 19) article feature image
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Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images. Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs, Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies.

  • The Spurs and Grizzlies meet Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) as part of the NBA Western Conference Play-In Tournament.
  • San Antonio boasts an edge in coaching and experience, but Memphis' deep squad of youthful talent may usher in a new order in the NBA Western Conference.
  • Below, find our full NBA betting preview with updated odds, in-depth analysis, plus our picks and predictions for tonight's game.

Spurs vs. Grizzlies Odds

Spurs Odds +4
Grizzlies Odds -4
Moneyline +145 / -175
Over/Under 222.5
Time Wednesday | 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds updated Wednesday afternoon and via BetMGM.

The Western Conference leg of the NBA Play-In Tournament kicks off Wednesday, with No. 9 seed Memphis hosting No. 10 seed San Antonio Spurs.

The Grizzlies find themselves in this predicament for the second season in a row after losing a nail-biter to the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Bubble last year. Despite having a 33-39 record  and losing 10 out of their 12 previous games, the Spurs have somehow still snuck their way into an opportunity to make the playoffs.

The Grizzlies had a 2-1 edge in the season series between the two Southwest Division rivals and all three games went over the number. Here’s a recap of what happened in their previous affairs:

  • Dec. 23, 2020: San Antonio won the season opener via a 131-119 victory in Memphis, spoiling Ja Morant’s 44-point performance.
  • Jan. 30: Memphis earned a 129-112 win in San Antonio despite the absence of standout Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Feb. 1: Memphis cruised in a 133-102 rout in San Antonio, which was the second game of a back-to-back set minus Valanciunas again.

Will the experience of Gregg Popovich have the Spurs prepared to pull an upset? Or will the exciting, young Grizzlies finally make the leap to prove themselves in the playoffs? Let’s break down the matchup below.

Popovich, San Antonio Looking To Pull Off Upset

This season is Popovich’s 25th season as San Antonio’s head coach. The Spurs have only missed the playoffs in two seasons: his first in 1996-1997 right before they drafted Tim Duncan and this past season. They’re playing for the opportunity of yet another playoff berth despite enduring a rough season.

Popovich and his staff continue to extract value from players like Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, who were are all late first-round draft picks that have blossomed into solid contributors.

Murray has especially stepped up his game, averaging a career high in points (15.7), rebounds (7.1) and assists (5.4) as San Antonio’s starting point guard. He is best known for his defense after being named to the All-Defensive Second Team back in 2017-2018, but he showed  he can run an offense as well. His size and athleticism will be incredibly useful to defend the speedy Morant.

Jakob Poeltl was inserted into starting lineup on Feb. 3 and has made a huge impact on the Spurs’ defense.  His On/Off Court numbers show the Spurs’ Defensive Rating decreases by 4.2 points per 100 possessions when he is off the court, per Basketball Reference.

The big man is a difference maker on the floor and will be well suited to guard Grizzlies standout Valanciunas in the post. He will have to log extra time on the floor and doesn’t offer too much on the offensive end.

The Spurs protect the ball and average the fewest turnovers in the league. Per NBA Advanced Stats, they’re No. 2 in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (2.14). Their ability to limit mistakes and take care of the basketball could prove to be beneficial in a single-elimination game, especially because the Grizzlies are ranked third in points off turnovers and first in fast-break points.

It would serve San Antonio’s best interest to keep it slow and steady to prevent the Grizzlies from utilizing their strengths in transition.

Youthful Memphis Profitable Against The Spread

The scrappy Grizzlies continue to outperform market expectations this season with a record of 41-30-1 (57.7 percent) against the spread, per the Sports Data Query Language database.

Memphis was happy to welcome Jaren Jackson Jr. back to the lineup. He brings a dynamic skill set as a big man who can shoot 3-pointers and defend the paint. In order to manage his return from injury, he has been sporadically sitting games, which has not been all that beneficial for the Grizzlies.

Jackson has not really found his rhythm on offense yet, shooting only 42.4% from the field, but he has made a presence on defense, averaging 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Many folks immediately think of Morant as the face of the franchise, but the Grizzlies’ most effective and valuable player is Valanciunas, who leads the team in Player Efficiency Rating (24.1) and Win Shares (7.5), according to Basketball Reference. However, the Spurs have an excellent defender in Poeltl, who may be able to slow down Valanciunas.

Another solid contributor has been Kyle Anderson, who leads the team in Defensive Win Shares (2.6). He averaged a career high in statistical categories across the board and has been counted on to be a ball distributor. He might have this game circled, as there could be the revenge factor against his former team. The Spurs drafted him in the first round back in the 2014-2015 season.

The Grizzlies are deep. They’ve got a lot of excellent role players that have carried on the “grit-and-grind” legacy, including two-way players like Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton who have contributed to the Grizzlies’ success on defense.

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Spurs-Grizzlies Pick

I think Memphis’ depth and talent override San Antonio’s experience and coaching. That leads me to believe the Grizzlies will ultimately prevail. However, I don’t have extreme confidence Memphis can cover the spread against the well-coached Spurs.

Instead, I am looking toward betting the total, where I see a nice opportunity for a lower-scoring game than anticipated. The Play-In tournament is only in its first season, so there are no historical trends to set a precedent. However, for all intent and purpose, I will consider this a playoff game.

When two teams meet in the playoffs and their previous matchup went over the total in a regular-season game, the total has gone 25-10 (71.4%) to the under since the 2014-2015 season, per the SDQL database. The market might tend to shade the number higher than it should be due to past results, where I believe the playoff grind will make these games more conducive to unders.

When teams meet in the playoffs and their previous regular-season matchup ended in a lopsided double-digit margin of victory, the total has gone 33-12 (75.6%) to the under since the 2014-2015 season, per the SDQL database.

This is also active, as the Grizzlies blew out the Spurs in their last regular-season matchup. In such scenarios, the team that was blown out plays a little tougher defense to exact some revenge, especially in a higher stakes situation.

Although the Spurs defense isn’t great, I believe their best defenders in Murray and Poeltl match up well against Morant and Valanciunas. I think the Spurs will slow the game down and not allow the Grizzlies to capitalize on fast-break points. Furthermore, San Antonio does not turn the ball over much at all, which should not open up as many opportunities in transition.

Neither team is efficient on offense, both ranking in the bottom 10 in Effective Field-Goal percentage. I think Jackson’s return for Memphis has been a positive for its defense, but a negative for its offense as he still sits every other game and has yet to shake off the rust or build chemistry with his teammates.

We’ve already seen the market move the total from the opening line of 225.5 points down to 221.5 in a move I agree with. I make the total 219, so I think there is still some value in that number. I also predict a 110-108 win for the Grizzlies in a tight game.

Pick: Total Under 221.5 (down to 220)

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