The Memphis Grizzlies have come a long way since upsetting the Spurs last night in Memphis. The Grizzlies, originally hailing from Vancouver, moved to Memphis in 2001. After trading for Spanish star Pau Gasol, in his rookie year in 2001, the Grizzlies would become an average team in the Western Conference. In that time though, until Pau got traded in 2008, the Grizzlies made three playoff appearances, only to be swept every time.
After Gasol left for the Lakers, the Grizzlies had three miserable years. They drafted Hasheem Thabeet, who was sent down to the D-League after not performing well in the NBA. They also signed Allen Iverson, but just after six games, AI quit the team for personal reasons.
Now, three years later, the Grizzlies are back in the playoffs, and have made franchise history.In the past, the Grizzlies have only had three playoff wins in Vancouver and Memphis combined. After upsetting the top seed San Antonio Spurs, the Grizzlies now have seven playoff wins, four coming from this year.
The Grizzlies are a young team led by a veteran leader. Some of the young stars of the Grizzlies include, Pau's brother, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, OJ Mayo, and rookie Xavier Henry. The leader of this team though is Zach Randolph. With Rudy Gay out for the season, it was Randolph who kept the Grizzlies in the playoffs towards the end of the season, and eventually helped them upset the Spurs.
The Grizzlies were 46-36 this season. Randolph led the team in points and rebounds, averaging 20.1 and 12.2 respectively. Mike Conley Jr ledMemphis in assists with 6.5 per game. Rudy Gay, averaged 19.8 points per game and six rebounds. With Gay out for the season, many players are stepping up in his absence.
Now in the playoffs, Randolph is averaging 21.5 points per game, his 29 points last night helped cap off a first round series victory over the Spurs. Marc Gasol has stepped it up in the playoffs, and has averaged 12.3 rebounds per game. The two big men, overpower the Spurs who do not have that much height.
The Grizzlies are much younger, and have much more energy then this aging Spurs team. Mike Conley and Darrell Arthur both sped by defenders throughout the series. The Spurs just could not keep up. Even when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker would try to help the Spurs win the game, it would be Randolph who would also clinch the win for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies got up to a 3-1 lead in the series. They were in position to win game five, but Gary Neal hit a three pointer to tie the game with only one second left. The Spurs would end up to win that game in OT.
In game six, the Grizzlies knew they had to finish off the Spurs, because if not, game seven would be played in San Antonio. The Spurs hadn't beat the Grizzlies in Memphis all season long (0-4). The Grizzlies got off to an early lead, and kept it throughout most of the game. Then with only a few minutes left in the fourth, the Spurs took a 81-80 lead. Then the Grizzlies went to Zach Randolph for the next five possessions, and by the time the clock struck 0:00, the Grizzlies were advancing to the next round.
The Grizzlies now face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also a young and energetic team, the Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Grizzlies still have a great chance to win this series as well. The Thunder do not have the height or strength to hold off Randolph and Gasol on the post. The most important matchup though will be Kevin Durant vs whoever steps up to guard him. If the Grizzlies can shut down Durant, and force Westbrook to shoot 30 shots again, they might find themselves playing in the Western Conference Finals.