The San Antonio Spurs did exactly what was asked of them this week, clinching victories in their first two home games of the Western Conference Finals. But just because the NBA odds have started to shift in their favor doesn’t mean that the Memphis Grizzlies are an easy team to forget about — just ask the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the first round of this postseason, we saw the Grizz bounce back out of a 2-0 deficit to promptly eliminate the Clippers in Game 6. While there’s much to be said of the difference between a young team like L.A. and a veteran ball club like San Antonio, it would be naive to assume that the same couldn’t happen, especially as the series moves to Tennessee.
Memphis defying expectations is not a story limited to the postseason. It started with the regular season (and for much of the past half-decade, while we’re at it). With an egoless roster composed of a handful of offensive weapons and invaluable pieces, the Grizzlies have made short work of some of the greatest quote-unquote superstars the NBA has to offer.
Kevin Durant? Check. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin? Check and check.
Unlike the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, however, the Spurs have been around the block before. In fact, it’s quite likely that this Spurs team has served as one of the inspirations for the team that Memphis general manager Chris Wallace (a former Boston Celtics man) has built for himself.
In a league often dominated by individuals, the Grizzlies — like the Spurs of the past two decades and the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons — have been able to win games without relying solely on the otherworldly skill of one or two of their stars.
If Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can continue to methodically pick away at opponents with their combination of high- and low-post skills, while Tony Allen serves as the lockdown defender and fire-starter he’s come to be known, the Grizzlies can hang with anybody.
Their humility and team effort (rather than trying to force star players to produce) have allowed them to thrive in the postseason after all. If it’s not Gasol, Randolph or Allen, then it could well be Mike Conley on the point, Jerryd Bayless or Tayshaun Prince.
The pressure then, falls on San Antonio, despite its two-game series lead and 13-4 odds of winning the NBA championship. Can Gregg Popovich and company prove that they’re still the prime example of a basketball team that knows how to play the game the right way?
This post is presented by Bovada.