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Around the NBA: Why The Grizzlies Could Win It All

The Memphis Grizzlies are only the fourth 8 seed to win a playoff series, and only the second team to win a 1st round best-of-7 match up.  They defeated the Spurs in 6 games and have gotten out to a 1-0 lead over the Thunder.  (Keep in mind the title of this post is Why The Grizzlies Could Win It All and not Why The Grizzlies Will Win It All, if I wanted more shock value I would have said that, but I don’t believe it, so why lie to you?)  Regardless, the Grizzlies, even without Rudy Gay, are a team that is feared by their opponents.

Coming into this post season the Grizzlies had a 0-12 franchise record in the playoffs.  They never sniffed the second season while in Vancouver, but got there three straight years in Memphis (2003-2006) only to be swept each time.  After four years of no playoffs, the Grizz went 46-36 this year (same record as the 7 seed Hornets) and were awarded with the last seed in the West.

Their young star Rudy Gay (20 pts, 6 rebs, 3 asts this season) only played in 54 games as a shoulder injury cost him the rest of the year.  The idea that Memphis could be a pesky 1st round opponent seemingly went out the window with Gay’s injury.  However, when the regular season came to an end and the match up of #1 Spurs vs. #8 Grizzlies was official, some, like TNT’s Charles Barkley, thought that Memphis would beat the aging and banged up Spurs.  But can they keep going?

Memphis is 5-2 in the playoffs.  They proved they can win on the road (victories in both San Antonio and Oklahoma City) and they are a perfect 3-0 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.  They have a combination of young guys and veterans.  It’s clear that they feel like they belong.  Obviously the notion that they would be satisfied with one upset is false thanks to their Game 1 performance in OKC.

How do they do it?  It starts with Zach Randolph.  A guy who put up 20-10s throughout his career on bad teams.  He was labeled a clubhouse cancer, waste of money, etc.  Whether it was Portland, New York, or his brief stay with the Clippers, it seemed like no buddy wanted his production because of his attitude.  Well it’s working in Memphis; after they won their 1st playoff game (Game 1 vs. San Antonio) the team announced they had inked Z-Bo to a multi-year extension.  And how about this for a complement, All-Star and 2-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant said that Randolph is the best power forward in the league today.

Whether that is true or not (Dirk & Pau are pretty good) it is incredibly high praise and it’s not an outlandish statement anymore.  The combo of Randolph and Marc Gasol has been absolutely devastating.  Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will have to slow those guys down if the Thunder are going to win this series.  If not, Randolph-Gasol vs. Gasol-Bynum-Odom in the next round would be worth the price of admission.

So the 8 seed Grizzlies, have an advantage in most series at the 4-5 spot, they get great rebounding and scoring from those positions.  Point guard Mike Conley has gotten better in each of his 4 years in the NBA.  He’s no Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, or Russell Westbrook, but he knows his game, plays smart and doesn’t turn it over.  He’s more of a pure point guard compared to the guy he is matched up with in this series, Westbrook.  Conley is also not a liability like a Mike Bibby or Derek Fisher.

Over half of the Grizzlies points in the playoffs come from the trio of Randolph-Gasol-Conley.  The lack of Rudy Gay has actually made the roles on the team more defined.  Those three are relied on for the majority of the shots (50.2% of the shots).  Fellow starters Tony Allen and Sam Young, score only when they are open (Young can hit the outside shot, I don’t need to tell you about TA).  Off the bench, the Grizz bring in O.J. Mayo (who they tried to trade on deadline day), Shane Battier, Darrell Arthur, and a little bit of Greivis Vasquez to spell Conley.

With Rudy Gay out, they are not going to score a lot from the wing spots, however Tony Allen and Shane Battier force the opponent to work their ass of to get theirs.  We know the Thunder are Durant & Westbrook.  They hope they get a great night from James Harden or Serge Ibaka.  Memphis comes at you with more of a team.  Game 1 their bench outscored Oklahoma City’s 27-16, and one would think that advantage might be even greater at home.

Despite being an 8 seed, and despite not having Gay, look at how they match up against every team left in the playoffs (not counting the Hawks)…

Vs. Lakers:

Derek Fisher vs. Mike Conley

Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen/ O.J. Mayo/ Shane Battier

Ron Artest vs. Sam Young/ Shane Battier

Pau Gasol vs. Zach Randolph

Andrew Bynum vs. Marc Gasol

Lamar Odom vs. Darrell Arthur/ Z-Bo

Vs. Mavericks:

Jason Kidd vs. Mike Conley

DeShawn Stevenson vs. Tony Allen

Shawn Marion vs. Sam Young

Dirk Nowitzki vs. Zach Randolph/ Darrell Arthur

Tyson Chandler vs. Marc Gasol

Jason Terry vs. O.J. Mayo/ TA/ Shane Battier

Vs. Bulls:

Derrick Rose vs. Mike Conley/ TA

Keith Bogans vs. Tony Allen/ O.J. Mayo

Luol Deng vs. Sam Young/ Shane Battier

Carlos Boozer vs. Zach Randolph

Joakim Noah vs. Marc Gasol

Vs. Heat:

Mike Bibby vs. Mike Conley

Dwyane Wade vs. Tony Allen

LeBron James vs. Sam Young/ Shane Battier

Chris Bosh (assuming he doesn’t take himself out because of the pressure that would be associated with the NBA Finals) vs. Zach Randolph

Big Z vs. Marc Gasol

James Jones vs. O.J. Mayo

Vs. Celtics:

Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Conley

Ray Allen vs. Tony Allen

Paul Pierce vs. Sam Young/ Shane Battier

Kevin Garnett vs. Zach Randolph

Jermaine O’Neal vs. Marc Gasol

Delonte West vs. O.J. Mayo

Glen Davis vs. Darrell Arthur

Jeff Green vs. Shane Battier

Is it just me or do they match up extremely well with everybody?  I’m not saying they are going to win the title, but the Grizzlies are going to be a very tough out.  Between their down low scoring, great rebounding, elite perimeter defenders, and x-factors (Mayo or Young could go for a random 30 one night), toss in a home court advantage and watch out.  Good luck to the Thunder, because they need it.

  • NHBluesMan

    first off… "no buddy"? was that supposed to be a new hip way of saying "nobody"? haha

    great rundown though. I was having a similar conversation with some friends about this the other day. It's crazy how the Grizz have come into their own as a TEAM. I think it would be almost poetic if somehow the Grizz won the NBA title over the Heat, showing that a #8 seed TEAM is better than an NBA-Jam squad plus D-Leaguers. I doubt it would happen, but it sure would be fun to watch

    • diehardceltic

      I would actually so love the grizzles to win it all! I don't how valid this is but for some reason they remind me of the celtics in terms of an Ubuntu spirit!

  • Soharlem

    The Grizz have a good shot @ making the FINALS not just the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS. The fact that they play as a team and it seems like there are no big egos involved (Miami, OKC, LA) allows them to beat the so called better teams. Look out for Memphis they are proving that they are a problem!!!

  • kricky

    I like the way they play. They are really made for the playoffs and Zack has finally grown up.

    But I think they lack a bit of outside shooting to be a real contender. You need to stretch the floor a bit more than they can with OJ, TA, and Battier. Really good teams will eventually sag off the shooters and clog things up inside.

    This team would be a real load if they had Ray Allen.

  • Zee

    Not to mention, they have a great bench, just like the Mavs do. The bench is the determining factor for this playoffs in my opinion. Which is also why the Bulls won't beat the Hawks.

  • skeeds

    there was a terrible article on NBA.com a while ago that made a case about this being a "star player" league. (here :http://www.nba.com/2011/news/features/shaun_powell/03/02/george-karl-no-superstar-team/index.html) In short words, it "proved" that in the end, a team needs a superstar (franchise player) in his prime to win a championship, and there's no way around that.

    Offcourse there are numerous examples of this being total bullshit, from the Pistons, to the Celtics "model". I think the Grizzlies are right now the best example of a team that could win it all just by having a gameplan and sticking to its best tools. It has a nucleus of very good athletes, none of them a superstar, but performing at a very high level and with a coordination and determination that can stun teams.

    • JOJO

      It is true that a star player is needed, but in it doesn't have to be an "all-star". The star player could just be the designated star player on the team. For all intended purposes, Z-Bo is a "star player". The reason they lost last night was because he was contained. When he's the star, they're unstoppable. The problem with a lot of teams who don't have a star is that they don't allow certain guys on the team to become a star. It's great when a guy comes out of the woodwork and becomes a star. That's what Memphis has done, and despite the fact that Kevin Durant is the only person outside of Memphis that thinks Z is a star, he's still Memphis' star. (When the pistons won, Billups was a star, so this argument that there was none, I think, is invalid.)

  • Ross

    Chris Bosh (assuming he doesn’t take himself out because of the pressure that would be associated with the NBA Finals)

    Hysterical, choked on my lunch laughing! Right on, Rich.

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  • Todd

    Ain't happening …
    Memphis is a very talented one trick pony. The San Antonio series showed the rest of the league how to beat them. The Spurs tried but the Griz are "Rock" against the Spurs "Scissors”. Other teams are more versatile and as we are seeing tonight, dishing out as much punishment as the Grizz. There are two ways that the Grizz can lose. First, the games call be called tight because the Grizz have no finesse game. Second, even if the games are called loosely, the other team can play as physical as the Grizz.

  • DownUNDER

    Grizzlies win it all ?!? OohH pLeasee …defend the paint, and the'll shoot themselves outta the game. Spurs had weak Defense, they had old men(Duncan + McDyss) tryna out play young men (Z-bo + Gasol), aint gunna happen. Z-bo's a beast though, tought task for any defender. I think okc-griz series goes to 7 games, then winner will lose to either Lakers or Mavs! my 2 cents!

  • Guest

    Why no love for the hawks? or is it that you don't know which adaptation of the team larry drew will throw out to the grizzlies in david stern's nightmare series? hawks have shown they can beat the bulls, beat the celtics last month and zaza always loves playing kg, beat the heat once, and are 2-0 vs the grizz this year. could be the worst matchup since '78

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