Spurs' Tony Parker expects Game 4 in Memphis to be 'the hardest'

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The San Antonio Spurs dominated the Memphis Grizzlies over the first two games of their best-of-seven series, winning by margins of 32 and 26 at home before surviving a dogfight in Game 3 on Friday night at the FedEx Forum to take a 3-0 lead going into Sunday’s matchup.

We caught up with Spurs point guard Tony Parker at the team’s hotel Saturday in Memphis, and he expects an even more valiant effort from the shorthanded Grizzlies in Game 4, as San Antonio seeks to complete coach Gregg Popovich’s ninth sweep in a best-of-seven series, which would break a tie with Phil Jackson for the most by any coach in NBA history:

With the playoffs here, does the intensity change for Popovich?

Tony Parker: For sure. Everybody’s focus is very high. Even in our preparation and everything we do, you see the difference.

Would you say there are more weapons on this year’s team than any other time during your tenure?

TP: I guess so. It’s hard ... every time people want to compare teams over the years, I always say you have to win a championship first to be compared to other teams.

What was it like to secure such a hard-fought win over the Grizzlies on the road?

TP: It was great. We knew they were going to come out like that and play really hard and aggressive. We didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half. We had to dig in. The second half was a lot better. We played better defense and finally got the game. It was a great, like, playoff game.

What do you envision being on the horizon for Game 4?

TP: This is the hardest, especially on the road. On this team, we have a lot of experience. We know how to do this. We just have to go out there and play hard.

What’s your assessment of how the offense has performed through the first three games?

TP: I think we can always do better. We’ll watch film and see what we can do different. The goal is always to improve. A road win in the playoffs is always hard. Even if we know we can play better, we can’t take it for granted. Each win on the road is sweet.

How has the offense changed considering the ascension of Kawhi Leonard?

TP: Everybody knows it’s him now. Everything is going to go through him and LaMarcus [Aldridge]. Everybody else has to adapt. You have to find your spots. Kawhi’s been playing unbelievable. He played huge last night. He made some big baskets in the fourth quarter to get us the win. We just have to go through them and make sure they get in a rhythm. If they don’t play well, we’re not going to go anywhere.

Is Leonard the antidote against teams that try to play small ball against the Spurs?

TP: Our team, we can play both ways: we can go big or we can go small. Kawhi can be very aggressive when we go small.