Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beware of the Grizzlies

AP Photo
With their 4-1 crushing of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies have cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The relentless Grizzlies stormed past the defending Western Conference champions with a large dosage of hard work and tenacity, led by center Marc Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph and point guard Mike Conley. In the end, their grinding style of play proved to be too much for the Thunder who were without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.

Memphis will now play in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history.

The Grizzlies (who were once considered the laughing stock of the NBA) have made tremendous progress over the last 4+ seasons under head coach Lionel Hollins. This is their third consecutive season in the playoffs and each time have had a strong performance.  Prior to Hollins' tenure the Grizzlies were 0-12 in their only other playoff appearances.

Under Hollins, in the 2010-11 playoffs (as the 8th seed) they upset the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs (4-2 in the 1st round) in dominating fashion. They continued their strong performance in the second round against the No. 4 seed OKC Thunder, eventually losing 4-3. Yes, OKC won the series but they had to leave it all on the court against the pesky Grizzlies.

In the 2011-12 playoffs the Grizzlies (as the 4th seed) lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers (the 5th seed) 4-3. But this too was a gut-wrenching series that went the full 7 games and could have gone either way.

And now during these playoffs the Grizzlies have cranked it up a notch and have bulldozed their way into the Western Conference Finals. They have done so by defeating the Clippers (in the first round) and the Thunder (in the second round) with hard play and tough defense. By defeating the Clippers and Thunder respectively, they have now avenged their last two playoff loses. Now they await the winner of the Spurs/Golden State Warriors series and are one step away from reaching their first-ever NBA Finals.

Regardless of who they'll face in the conference finals there's no doubt they will present some frustrating match-up problems for either team. So beware Spurs or Warriors, there just may be a new sheriff in the Western Conference town. 

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