The Memphis Grizzlies shocked everyone when they took the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games during last year’s Western Conference semifinals.This year’s Grizzlies team is set up for a very similar, if not even better run through the playoffs.
Last night’s 94-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers puts them within half a game of the No. 4 seed in the west.
The surging Grizzlies have won eight of their last 10 games, including victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, and aforementioned Clippers.
Memphis struggled at times in when Zach Randolph was out with a partial MCL tear earlier this season.
They have still been able to hang around the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture, though.
And now that Randolph is healthy and providing quality minutes off the bench, there’s no reason why Memphis can’t reach the Lakers for the third spot in the Western Conference (they’re just two games back).
Memphis’ key this season has been their defence. They are top 10 in the NBA in defensive efficiency and force the second most turnovers in the league.
The way things are set up right now, the Grizzlies would face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The winner of that series would likely face the Spurs or Thunder in the conference semifinals, and the other team in the conference finals.
Those potential match-ups bode well for the upset-minded Grizz.
Despite being considered an NBA Finals contender during the preseason, the Clippers have looked quite beatable at times. With Chris Paul running the point the Clippers have one of the more efficient offenses in the league, but their defence has been just average. They also consistently lose focus and end up dropping games to bottom rung teams like the Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, and New Orleans Hornets.
The Thunder have looked invincible most of the season, but Memphis was able to take both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out of their offensive rhythms in their big win last week. There’s no reason why that can’t happen enough times during the playoffs for an OKC-Memphis series to go to seven games once again.
As for the Spurs, they have won 11 of 12, but are in “rest our stars” mode. This strategy hasn’t worked very well for Gregg Popovich recently, as the Spurs have been bounced from either the first or second round of the playoffs each of the last three years.
People rarely talk about the Memphis Grizzlies as one of the league’s elite teams, so they’ve flown completely under the radar so far this season. But don’t be surprised if they have another magical run through the Western Conference playoffs this season, especially if they end up with a top three seed.
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