The Grizzlies franchise is one of the newest in the major four sports, established only 18 years ago in 1995 (along with their Canadian counterparts, the Toronto Raptors). Originally located in Vancouver, British Columbia, the club moved to Memphis in 2001 after former owner Michael Heisley claimed the team was hemorrhaging too much money in Canada. The 1999 lockout, which had a hand in cutting Vancouver's attendance by nearly three thousand people, didn't help the financial outlook either. Even though Commissioner David Stern didn't want any of the teams to relocate, he allowed the Grizzlies to ship out to their new home since the early turn of the millennium, Memphis Tennessee. The squad played the first few years in the Pyramid, later moving to their current home in the raucous FedExForum.
The Grizzlies have had better luck in Memphis, trading for the 2001 third draft pick and eventual Rookie of the Year, Pau Gasol. Unfortunately for Memphis, this didn't translate to regular season success, as they finished last in their division with a record of 23-59. The team fared slightly better the next year, but still missed the playoffs. With legendary analyst and head coach Hubie Brown in tow for the next year, Memphis would jump to 50 wins and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Grizzlies faced the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs but were quickly swept in the first round. After making the playoffs the next two years (getting swept each time), Memphis regressed back into 20 win seasons for three consecutive seasons, culminating in new GM Chris Wallace trading away their only All-Star, Pau Gasol, to the Los Angeles Lakers for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown and two first round picks. The Lakers would go on to win consecutive championships, proclaiming most of the NBA world to claim that trade as a total steal for Mitch Kupchak. Now that Marc Gasol is a legitimate All-Star, floor general for the Grizzlies, and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the trade seems a bit more even. It could be argued that, at this point in time, Marc is the better of the two Gasols, especially with Pau's injuries this season and the Lakers' failure to meet expectations.
With Marc Gasol's progression, the acquisition of Rudy Gay and Mike Conley Jr. through the draft, and both Zach Randolph and Shane Battier later through trades, Memphis would reach the playoffs once again in 2010-11. The team also won their first ever playoff game and series against the Spurs, a team who once had their number for a long time. Zach Randolph had a great series, finishing it in fashion with a 31 point, 11 rebound performance in the final game. Randolph scored 17 points in the final quarter, propelling the Grizzlies to a 99-91 victory and one of the biggest upsets in playoffs history. Following the lockout, Memphis again made the playoffs, finishing fourth in the West but ultimately lost to the Clippers in a tough 7 game series.
This season, the Grizzlies are once again among the elite in the West, currently holding the 5th seed, trailing Denver by only a half game margin. The Los Angeles Clippers are at the top of Pacific Division, therefore giving them a top-four seeding. The Grizzlies are a unique team in the Western Conference, since their play reflects more of an Eastern Conference style; Slow, grind-it-out pace, with good defense and a half-court offense. If one looks at the NBA standings, focusing on points per game and points allowed, the Grizzlies stand out from the rest of the playoff pack in the West. They allow only 90 points per game, far and away the best number in the West, but also only score 93.8, the lowest number in the West. Their pace has a lot to do with this, as they are 28th in the league, with 91.3 possessions per game (compared to 96.2 for the Spurs, who are 7th). Nonetheless, their defense and physical style of play makes them a tough match-up for any team in the league.
Memphis started the season hot, with a record of 12-2 in October and November, but cooled significantly in December and January, finishing those months with a lackluster record of 17-14. At that point, their body of work was translating to a 45 win season, putting them just above the 6th seed in the West. Their midseason trade of their inefficient ‘star' Rudy Gay for Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince has bolstered their defense and their winning percentage. Since the trade, the Grizzlies have gone 20-8 in the months of February and March, putting them on pace for 59 wins and a small shot at the top seed in the West. The team's defense has been stingier and,even though their offense has sputtered at times, they are still a legitimate contender to advance deep into the playoffs.
Pop's Pre-Game Quote
"Without Manu, Tony is the guy that's got to generate things for us."
Quickie Game Hash
In their first game against the post-Rudy Gay trade Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs got off to a bad start, down 10-1 early in the first (missing their first 8 shots), before rallying to tie up the quarter at 21 all. With Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard out (in addition to Manu), Pop started Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw alongside the regular starters. This meant that the end of the bench (Bonner and Blair) would also suit up and see good minutes. The depleted Spurs played well against the full Grizzlies team, who are much better defensively with Go-Go Gadget Arms Tayshaun Prince in place of the much-maligned Rudy Gay. Prince would end up with three steals, a block, and four assists alongside his 11 points, a few of which came from an alley-oop and fast breaks.
The Grizzlies kept the game close throughout, falling behind by double digits only once as the Spurs took the lead in both the second and third quarters. Memphis tied the game up with four minutes to go in the fourth and kept it close throughout the remainder of the game. With a four point lead with less than one and a half minutes to go, it seemed as if the Spurs had this in the bag. But... if the last five games have taught us anything, it is that anything can and will happen in the last two minutes. Zach Randolph would go to the line, hit his first free throw attempt and miss his second. Marc Gasol rebounded the miss and scored, cutting the lead to one. After a couple freebies by Tony Parker, Mike Conley would hit his first three of the game to tie it up and then hit the game sealing layup after a missed jumper by Tony.
|MIKE CONLEY, JR.|
He didn't do much besides scoring, but that's what the Grizzlies needed down the stretch. His 5-0 run to end the game doomed the Spurs. A three pointer to tie it up and then a layup to win it. Great game from Conley.
Danny earned his IcyHot moniker tonight, as he was cold from the perimeter, hitting only one of four three point attempts. He also missed his other two field goals inside and allowed Mike Conley, Jr. to drive past him for the game-winning layup. We need Danny to be on his game if we want to have a shot at the Finals.
Numbers of Note
- 40 - Rebounds by both teams, an impressive feat considering two of our best rebounders were out of the game. And because the Grizzlies are one of the better rebounding teams in the league.
- 16 - Turnovers by the Spurs, six more than Memphis. These only translated to 11 points for the Grizzlies.
- 23 - Fouls called on the Spurs, nine more than Memphis. Tiago Splitter noticeably fouled out in the fourth, and two other Spurs' bigs had four as well (Blair/Diaw).
- 24 - Free throw attempts for the Grizzlies, more than double the 11 for the Spurs.
- 8 - Blocks by the Spurs, which is impressive without Timmy in the lineup.
- 2 - Three pointers allowed by the Spurs, on seven attempts by Memphis, good for 28.7%. The Spurs attempted twenty-three, and connected on eight, good for 34.8%.
- 56 - Consecutive games that Tony Parker has reached double digits in scoring.
- 100 - Magic number for the Spurs, as their last three losses have come when not reaching the century mark.
- 21-8 - Memphis' record after the Rudy Gay trade.
- 12 - Memphis' home winning streak was extended by another game, second highest in franchise history.
- 64 - Consecutive games Mike Conley had a steal. That streak was broken last night.
Odds & Ends
- I never get tired of making note of Tayshaun Prince's long arms. Even for the NBA, his arms stand out. "Go-Go Gadget!"
- With Timmy, Manu, and Kawhi out, it seemed like Tony can do whatever he likes with the ball, and hasn't felt the need to defer at any time. And for good reason. Tony attempted 19 shots, a bit above his average, and made 9, along with 7 freebies. He did much better against Mike Conley than against Norris Cole, which doesn't make sense as I'm typing it out.
- Tiago did pretty well considering he's the only real big we had in the game going against what is likely the most formidable frontcourt in the league in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. He ended up fouling out but still scored 13 points alongside 11 rebounds, a better line than Zach Randolph (Mr. Double Double himself).
- The Memphis crowd is really animated. They must not like the Spurs. I wonder why. (Editor's Note: They don't like anybody)
- Stephen Jackson showed his aggressiveness in this game, attacking the basket and showing good hustle. He packed his box score, scoring 12 points, grabbing 7 boards, alongside 3 assists, and 2 blocks and steals. 35 minutes worth of SJax.
- Nando De Colo was showing off his skills. The announcers were pretty funny, comparing Pop's love of fine wines to the Spurs love of aged Euro-stash draft picks (Tiago, Nando, Manu). He had 10 points in 17 minutes (5-6 FG) and 5 rebounds. He also had 5 turnovers, which is likely why Pop didn't play him over Gary Neal late in the game.
- The game was a bit sloppy throughout, which greatly benefits the Grizzlies, who love a physical and defensive-oriented game. If the Spurs want to win, they have to keep the ball moving and essentially hit some more shots. Danny Green needs to get into his Hot mode once the playoffs arrive.
- I wonder if PATFO will rest TP against the Magic. I'm thinking that Cory gets the start, and Kawhi comes back as well. TD and TP will sit, saving their energy for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to...
...not suffer another letdown game. This loss was acceptable since Tim and Kawhi were both out. Pop may likely rest some players against the hapless Orlando Magic as well. After that though, an incredibly important game against the Oklahoma City Thunder looms for the Western Conference's top seed. Does PATFO want that seed or take their chances at the two spot? Time is running out.