The Memphis Grizzlies are bringing back defense to a league that is dominated by offensive superstars. Every player on Memphis plays defense on each possession down the floor, and that leads to easy baskets on the other end of the floor.
Against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, the Grizzlies had 6 steals. That is no eye opening statistic, but you have to see them play to understand what kind of defense they have.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, two perennial all-stars, struggled to bring the ball up the floor at times. Guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen put so much pressure on the Thunder ball handlers, constantly swiping yet keeping their man in front of them, that OKC had 15 turnovers. There were more balls smacked out of bounds than I could count, and OKC just couldn’t get in a rhythm because of the defensive pressure.
Like I said, every player on the Grizzlies plays defense. Aside from Conley and Allen (probably their best two defenders), big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, as well their superstar Rudy Gay (28 points against OKC), make a concerted effort to frustrate their opponent and not let them score. Randolph, who was heralded by Durant after the game as the “best PF in the NBA,” frustrated the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins to the point that the he went after Randolph late in the fourth quarter. Both were ejected, and Thunder writers said that the two big men even exchanged harsh words after the game, as well.
Perkins and Randolph have a history of tension. In the 2011 play offs, Randolph told reports after the game:
“Perk’s good, but all Perk can do is foul me. That’s the only thing he can do. The best thing about his defense on me is to foul me. … He can’t (stop me). He’s too slow. He’s a big body. He can foul. I don’t think nobody in the league can stop me. Not only Perk. I tell Perk to his face. I already told him before.”
With the Grizzlies frustrating the Thunder like they did in their 107-97 victory, the Western Conference had better take note, and watch out for Memphis come playoff time.