The Memphis Grizzlies enjoyed the most successful season in franchise history last year, making it all the way to Western Conference Finals. Coming into this season, however, it seemed that Grizzlies were overlooked in discussions about the West’s contenders. Everyone knows about the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, and even up and comers like the Golden State Warriors were (and are) getting more attention.
However, the Grizzlies made sure they reminded everyone why they are as good as any team in the NBA with their 106-102 road win over the Clippers last night. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph displayed their dominance in the post, with Gasol recording 23 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, and Randolph chipping in 26 points and 15 rebounds. Mike Conley scored some big baskets down the stretch, and the Grizzlies’ strong defense held the Clippers to just 39.5% shooting.
Performances like the one the Grizzlies turned in yesterday are why they are such a tough matchup in the playoffs. No team in the NBA has better center and power forward combination than Gasol and Randolph, and Conley knows how to maximize their talents. Defensively, the Grizzlies are one of the top units in the league, led by Gasol and Tony Allen. They led the NBA in scoring defense last season, and they force opponents to play the slow, grind it out style that Memphis thrives on.
The Grizzlies do not have a universally recognized superstar (although Gasol should be) and they play in one of the smallest markets in the league. For those reasons, it seems that national recognition is something that this team will always struggle to receive. However, they simply continue to play their game and pile up wins, and every team in the West knows that any win against Memphis will be very hard earned.
The Grizzlies’ win yesterday served as further proof that they can compete with anybody in the NBA, and that they are going to be contenders for a title when playoff time comes around. Ignore the Grizzlies at your own risk, but they will be still be playing basketball long past their more hyped rivals.