Tim Duncan

It would be a mistake to view this as a direct sequel to 2011, when eighth-seeded Memphis knocked off the No. 1 Spurs in the first round to engineer one of the biggest upsets in recent NBA history.

The Grizzlies no longer have the steady, veteran hand of Shane Battier, or the wild cards that were Greivis Vasquez and O.J. Mayo. Neither are the Spurs relying on spare parts to shore up their front court around a hobbled Tim Duncan.

But with most of the main faces returning — Duncan, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Manu Ginobili, both coaches — the tone of the matchup will remain the same: Football on hardwood.

Perhaps no team in the NBA is better at imposing their will than the Grizzlies. It is not by accident that their slogans — “Grit ‘N Grind” and “Whoop That Trick” — imply violence. The Grizzlies are tough, the Grizzlies are physical, and the Grizzlies are relentless, a perfect match with the blue-collar city they represent.

“If you thought this was physical,” Duncan said after the Spurs eliminated Golden State, “it’s going to turn up about 10 notches.”

The Spurs flinched badly under such circumstances two years ago, becoming only the fourth No. 1 seed to bow out in the first round. But after recapturing some of the defensive edge from their past championship campaigns, they can now give almost as good as they get.

– Reported by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News