If someone told you…

If someone told you these things following Game 4, which you didn’t see because you live under a rock, what would you say?

  • The two teams combined for 181 points
  • Westbrook and Durant combined for 30 points on 11-45 shooting
  • That 11-45 included just 2-13 from 3
  • The Grizzlies won the turnover battle 13-21
  • The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder in the paint
  • TA, Marc, and Mike Conley all posted double-doubles

Surely, you would think, the Grizzlies won, now lead the series 3-1, and will look to close out the Thunder in OKC. But the basketball gods are of a cruel, rigid, and sleazy variety. They summoned the one, the uncontainable, Reggie Jackson to do their bidding.

It was just another bizarre twist in an already bizarro series. For the first time since 2009 when Boston defeated Chicago (4-3) en route to the NBA Finals, a playoff series saw three consecutive games reach overtime. The Boston series had 4 games go to extra time, including a double OT game 1, won by Chicago in Derrick Rose’s playoff debut, and a triple OT game 6, also won by the Bulls despite Ray Allen’s 51 points. In fact, the Bulls won 3 of the 4 overtime games, but were deemed not worthy by the aforementioned harlots that reign over this great sport. Oh, and that series was a 2 vs 7 matchup as well.

The feeling in my gut is all too similar to that of 2011, when Memphis stole an early game in OKC, came home to win game 3 in overtime, and then dropped a heartbreaking game 4, of course featuring more free basketball. It’s easy to forget how terrible things looked in the second and third quarters last night, and how little business the Grizzlies had being in the game at the end. But that’s why you play all 48 scheduled minutes. And then probably 5 extra minutes. Tony Allen summoned his demigod will power to snag rebounds and ensure that Kevin Durant would not touch the ball down the stretch. Unfortunately, there is only one Tony Allen, while there is also a Kevin Durant and a Reggie Jackson. Westbrook and his 7 turnovers are very fortunate and much appreciated.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Conley kept Memphis in the game, but OKC finally prevailed, ending a franchise record 15 game home win streak.

Jackson scored 32 points in 37 minutes off the bench, while most of the Grizzlies guards and reserves spent the night snoozing. Conley roused late with some key drives and steals, but is now just 2-20 from three in the series. 2-20. 10%. That has to improve if Memphis is going to win two of the next three games. So does free throw shooting, but that’s a perpetual goal of any basketball player in the Memphis city limits: grade school, high school, college, professional, church-league. They all need help. Dare I suggest granny style?

An opportunity was lost, but games 2 and 3 showed the mental toughness this team possesses. OKC knew going down 3-1 was essentially a death sentence, and they responded with the same poise that Memphis did after blowing a lead.

Here’s some fuzzy math. Memphian diets (a function of appetite, and fried chicken + barbeque available per square mile) + Grizzlies playoff basketball = decreasing future life expectancies. This is wearing me out. I’ll leave you with another ode to Hunter S. Thompson via Ralph Steadman. This is how I suggest you watch the remaining games. Jesus! It’s for your health man!

Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman

-Travis Nauert


Heat can’t stand Grizz, West race tightens

In the hours following Wednesday night’s Grizz-Heat slugfest, punctuated by a Tony Allen slam cementing his return to form (Grizz fans hope and desperately pray), Geoff Calkins nominated the contest as a candidate for best regular-season game in franchise history.  I’ll leave rankings to individual preferences, but it had all the necessary ingredients.  Importance?  Immeasurable.  Highlight plays?  Myriad.  There were antics that only the Grizzlies can perform in a season saving game and yet still emerge victorious.  From Marc Gasol’s feisty Spanish temper convincing him to engage Lebron in a one man full court press, to Tony Allen’s steal turned behind-the-back pass, not to be outdone by what Yahoo Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie editor Dan Devine perfectly described as “one for the pantheon of missed Tony Allen layups”, this was a game that deserved a national audience.  The Grizzlies summoned enough heart, grit and grind, outlasting Lebron’s 37 points and rim rocking jams to remain alive in the savage and cannibalistic Western Conference playoff race.

There was also this absurd sidewinder pass from Marc to Courtney Lee:



And heres that full court press:

courtesy @mattyp90

courtesy @mattyp90

Something or someone pissed off ZBo as he got started early and often, connecting on all 8 of his first quarter attempts.  Among those included a 36 second span in which he hit a three pointer from the top of the key and dunked off a Marc Gasol assist.  Yes, it was the kind of night on which one might spot a unicorn underneath a blue moon while the calendar read February 29th.  Much of Zach’s damage came at the expense of Shane Battier, whose final appearance in Memphis was about as appropriate as the response the Grizzlies delivered.  With Hubie Brown announcing, Penny Hardaway sitting court side, and Mike Miller donning Beale Street Blue once again, Battier scored all 9 of his points on three first quarter 3-pointers to satisfy the cravings of Memphis basketball fans that span three decades.  It was a special night indeed.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

When ZBo’s scoring production faded, Mike Conley found his stroke hitting three fourth quarter 3’s, including two assisted by Nick Calathes on fast break opportunities.  The line up of Conley, Calathes, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol has performed well together, closing out games (4/4 vs Denver comes to mind) with the requisite amount of ball handling and security, defensive prowess, and of course, enough bruising and badass-ness from TA, ZBo, and Big Spain.



The Grizzlies won a game they had to have, as the Suns fought off New Orleans to remain a game ahead of Memphis.  After San Antonio took care of business against the Mavericks, fans will continue to back the Spurs in tonight’s game against Phoenix. The Spurs overcame Tony Parker’s absence and held their collective Tex-Mex breath during a scary moment when Tim Duncan’s knee bent in a way which no human being’s should. Timeless Timmy made his way to the locker room, but returned to log 39 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.  He was just fine, but admittedly scared in the moment.

How will Pop handle his starters, up 3 1/2 on OKC? (AP Photo/LM Otero)

How will Pop handle his starters, up 3 1/2 on OKC?
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

It remains to be seen if Gregg Popovich will rest the likes of Duncan, Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard in light of this near nightmare.  Granted, Pop can simply plug in an obscure foreign import and expect the same of them as he does his Hall-of-Fame trio.  The scary part is that they usually perform at that same level.  From Australia’s Patty Mills, and Canada’s Jeff Ayres, to the more recognizable Brazilian Thiago Splittler, the Spurs are capable of finding talented, egoless pieces from any continent.

What do these developments mean for the Grizzlies playoff chances?  They now control their own destiny to capture the 7th seed, and could conceivably steal the 6th spot with help from Golden State.  The Warriors screwed around and blew a 20 point lead to the same Denver Nuggets team that the Grizzlies struggled with twice in a just over a week’s time, but managed to defeat on both occasions.  Last night, however, Kenneth Faried’s brutish Greco Roman strength bulldozed Draymond Green deep into the paint, and released an attempt so lacking in fundamentals that George Mikan turned over in his grave.  No matter, the shot found its way through the basket, and Stephen Curry’s would be heroics were rendered meaningless.

Tonight, the Grizzlies take on Philadelphia in Memphis’ penultimate home game before traveling to LA and Phoenix.  The finale, of course, is another nationally televised game against Dallas which will conclude what has been a historic playoff chase and sparked discussion of revamping the entire format.  Whoever is left on the outside looking in will boast a record good enough for 3rd in the East, while the two qualifiers will aim to conquer the Spurs and Thunder.  Luckily, the Grizzlies don’t have to rely on others, and will need to look no further than the mirror should they not make the cut.

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)


-Travis Nauert

Zach Lowe’s Q&A with Mike Conley and the “Marc Gasol All-Stars”

Zach Lowe, a staff writer for Bill Simmons’ Grantland, caught up with Mike Conley while the Grizz were in Brooklyn last Wednesday. Lowe asked Conley a variety of questions, ranging in topic from Conley’s golf game, to fears of Tony Allen injuring fans (touched on later in this post), Marc Gasol getting caught singing “Call Me Maybe” pregame in Orlando, and the Grizzlies outlook for the home stretch. It’s a pretty entertaining read in light of Conley’s composed no non-sense attitude.

Q&A: Mike Conley on Being Tricky and the ‘Why Not Us?’ Grizzlies     < Click that



Additionally, if you missed it, Lowe composed a post All-Star break team centered around his favorite players to watch in the NBA. His name for the team, the Marc-Gasol All-Stars. His inaugural team from last season actually featured Marc Gasol as the starting Center (and co-captain along with Dirk Nowitzki). This year, Gasol is not on the team, which sounds stupid. How can Marc Gasol not be a member of the Marc Gasol All-Stars? Well, his MCL sprain not only cost him significant game time, but also a spot on his own team. Nonetheless, it’s badass that a well respected writer took the time to write a 4,000+ word article entitled “The Marc Gasol All-Stars”.

The Marc Gasol All-Stars   < Punch it



One more thing. The Marc Gasol All-Stars story has a link to the initial team that Lowe created last year, the “All-Fun All-Stars”. Tony Allen is featured on that team along with Marc. The following words come from Lowe’s 2012 article …possibly some of the best Grizz related quotes ever:

The All-Fun All-Stars….super lame name compared to the Marc Gasol All-Stars

FC Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (Co-Captain)

“I’ve covered this enough in anointing Gasol my mid-season Defensive Player of the Year, and my no. 1 choice of teammate in an alternate world in which I could play in the NBA. I love his shoes, with “Marc” in giant white letters on the tongue. I love his subtle anticipation on defense. I love how he’ll hip-check the shit out of you if it will help Memphis — and if the refs aren’t looking. I love his stand-still set shot. I love the sudden back-to-the-basket baseline spin he unleashes when a defender leans too firmly against him. I should probably stop writing about Marc Gasol.”

G Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies

“Ginobili is really a token starter, since he needs to rest, anyway. Manu deserves the honor of a lineup intro, but Allen is really the most entertaining player in the league, the anchor of this team’s backcourt rotation.

Allen is especially impressive because he’s almost as entertaining on the bench as on the court. He celebrates every good Memphis deed while he sits, and when a teammate does something really spectacular, Allen is liable to step onto the court in celebration and/or toss his towel into the air with no idea where it might end up. He hit an old lady in the face with a towel once last season.

You know about the on-court stuff. He is so physical on defense you can almost feel it through the television, only he rarely finds himself off balance. An Allen fast break is a suspense movie on Blair Witch levels, with a dozen possible endings. He might air-ball an uncontested layup. Or you might fear such an outcome, conditioned by years of avert-your-eyes misses,1 only to have Allen surprise you with an artful drop pass to a trailing player. The best show in the NBA.”

So thanks, Zach Lowe, for recognizing what ESPN and others refuse to acknowledge. The Grizzlies are not only a high caliber team (analysts reluctantly mention the Western Conference Finals appearance and in a somewhat appalled tone like last May was a bad acid trip for them), but they are an entertaining, League Pass worthy team as well. As Lowe put it, “The best show in the NBA”.

Tip off:

Memphis vs. Portland

FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

8:00 ET / 7:00 CT

-Travis Nauert

Bench helps the Grizz through the dark

Hate to say I told ya so.

We’re watching the greatest era of Grizzlies basketball. Period. We’ve just had a few speed bumps along the way. This time it was injuries, and they needed some time to get healthy. Things got iffy there for a while. Now, we’re looking at a real chance of not only making the playoffs but giving the rest of the West a run for their money. Here are a few reasons why I think the Grizzlies will remain an elite team as we approach the playoffs.

100 is the magic number

It’s all about offense. In the last nine games, Memphis has broken a score of 100 six times. To my dismay, the Atlanta Hawks took precedence over the Grizzlies game in Knoxville tonight, so I missed yet another stellar Grizz domination. This time it was against the Charlotte Bobcats who, while nursing a sub-par record, did beat us just two weeks ago. We’ll take every win we can get at this point in the season.

Coming off the bench

The past four seasons (including the current one) have collectively been the best in franchise history. One issue we’ve always had: finding a good backup center to relieve big man Marc Gasol. I mean just take a look at Gasol’s backups over recent years: Hamed Haddadi, Hasheem Thabeet and Leon Powe. Let’s just say they left us with much to be desired. Kosta Koufos has been all around solid, which is just what we need in this spot. I’ve been hearing the nickname “Kosta Coast,” and I like it. It’s nice having a back up center to root for. 

(Photo Credit to David Banks/USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit to David Banks/USA Today Sports)

I don’t like to get negative on this blog, but I vividly remember when Nick Calathes was booed in the FedEx Forum just a months ago. This month, you can call him Mr. Rookie of the Month for February. Calathes averaged 28.6 minutes, 4.6 assists and 10.7 PPG in February. Not too shabby for the new guy, huh?

Jon Leuer is getting playing time again, and he isn’t wasting a moment. Each time Leuer gets significant minutes, he makes a case for the the backup spot. He’s averaging 13 PPG and 2.5 rebounds in March. Ed Davis who? But really, to be blunt, he hasn’t brought much to the table lately. 

I always say we’re the team no one wants to play. Why? Well in part because we’ve got James Johnson and the Grindfather himself, Tony Allen, coming off the bench. These are two guys we can count on to relieve the starters, put up tough defense and attack the basket. Bottom line: they’re intimidating. 

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

The home stretch

We play Portland in the Grindhouse on Tuesday night before heading off on a relatively easy road trip.

Wedesday, March 12 @ New Orleans Pelicans (25-37)

Friday, March 14 @ Toronto Raptors (34-26)

Saturday, March 15 @ Philadelphia 76ers (15-47)

The real challenge will come when the Grizz fly to South Beach to take on the out-of-conference Heat, and then they return to Memphis to play the Indiana Pacers who are straight up terrifying. We’ll take a look at the rest of the season at a later date.

Enjoy the big win tonight, Grizz Nation.

-Casey Black

LA Clippers, Meet James Johnson

Well, Comcast struck again.  The Hawks played last night, and many of us outside Memphis were screwed.  Normally, I would have improvised quickly, going straight to the computer in hopes of finding a janky feed to stream the game.  I didn’t.  It was Friday night, and I was clowning, hard.  My fanhood warranted questioning as the Hollywood caliber actors that are the LA Clippers were on the menu.  My mistake indeed.  Twitter users following the likes of Chris Vernon, Chris Herrington, Geoff Calkins and others saw their feeds effectively blow up as the Grizzlies took the fight to the Clippers, spearheaded by James Johnson on his night.  The Neck Tattoo giveaway was a great success.  Calkins put it well capping the victory:

Clippers coach Doc Rivers credited Tony Allen, James Johnson, and Mike Miller for changing the game with their energy.  The Grizzlies bench outscored the Clippers reserves 43-7, and that is the stat of the day…I don’t know if I have ever seen something like that in a Grizzlies box score.

Now, back to James Johnson:

Block on Green, 2 Dunks by Johnson

Alley oop off the backboard

Twitter traffic mounted when Tony Allen returned to a standing ovation and, paired with Johnson, proceeded to wreak havoc on the perimeter.  The bench manhandled their counterparts, then came the highlight plays and commentary to go with it:

David Stern was smiling somewhere, as Adam Silver continues his predecessor’s bidding of eternally dooming Memphis with horrible officiating. And we noticed:

In the end, there was just too much Grizz:

Highlights and social media aside, the Grizzlies have come out of the All-Star Break strong with two solid wins at the Forum. Now that Tony Allen has returned, the roster is near full strength (minus Quincy Pondexter), and continued health will be key to rising up the West standings.  The Grizz are currently 1 game behind the Mavericks who hold the 8th seed.  Tonight, Memphis travels to Charlotte for a quick 1 game road trip before returning home to play the Lakers on Wednesday.  Dallas plays at Detroit tonight, so by the end of the day the Grizzlies could leapfrog the Mavericks and claim the final spot.

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

AP Photo/Lance Murphey

AP Photo/Lance Murphey

Tip off tonight:

7:00 ET / 6:00 CT

Time Warner Cable Arena

Charlotte, NC

-Travis Nauert

Grizzlies front office reaffirms faith in the roster

In the final minutes before the official trade deadline, Grizzlies fans could breathe again. It was safe to assume that no moves would be made that late, meaning Tony Allen would sit tight in Memphis right where he wants to be. All is good in the Bluff City. Although, I think the uneventful day meant so much more than just keeping our favorite SG. It restored a little faith in our Front Office and in the future of our team.

As a Grizzlies fan who’s seen the highs and will never forget the lows, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing deals like the one Minnesota proposed aren’t worth our money (JJ Barea and Chase Budinger for our Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince) . Like I’ve said over and over, this team has absurd potential. Just wait until we’re healthier. Things are going to get good.

Also, fans are still wishy-washy about ditching Lionel Hollins, especially after the uneasiness surrounding Hollins’ recent interview with Mearl Purvis of Fox 13. Basically any fanbase in the NBA, small market especially, goes up in arms when the cord is cut with any seemingly successful part of the team (Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Shane Battier to name a few). It just takes time to regain the faith in the guys in suits. It was common knowledge that they wanted relief from Prince’s $7.2 million/year contract and a facelift at the small forward position. It’s good to hear that it would take a little more to get rid of our beloved Grindfather.

We’ll never be that team out to grab the big stars despite who’s running the show or what Cali boy owns the team.

(Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal)

(Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal)

As we enter tonight’s game against the Clippers, Grizz Nation is full of good feelings. Tony is back, Marc’s re-injury scare was a false alarm, and we still scare the crap out of the rest of the NBA. No one wants to play us as we near the playoffs because we do grit n’ grind better than anyone out there.

Sure, Blake Griffin is playing his best basketball ever, but they don’t have a big guy to contest Marc Gasol. DeAndre Jordan has also been spectacular lately, but let me be frank; Marc would win that matchup any day. I’m skeptical of Nick Calathes up against Chris Paul, but we shall see. I love a good Friday night with the Grizz.


(Nikki Boertman/Commercial Appeal)

Grizzlies vs. Clippers
Tipoff 8 PM (ET)
FedEx Forum

-Casey Black

State of the Grizz – All Star Special

Priming for Playoff Push

The Grizzlies have reached the unofficial halfway point of the season.  52 of 82 games have been played, so my college level-ish math skills tell me 30 games remain.  The break comes with opportune timing.  Marc Gasol aggravated his left knee sprain last Wednesday at Orlando in an 86-81 win over the magic.  Mike Conley continues to nurse a sprained ankle, and Tony Allen nears his return from a nebulous wrist injury that has sidelined him for 20 consecutive games.

Spruce Durden – USATODAY Sports
Marc no like injury

The injuries have been a nuisance, and fans wonder where a healthy Grizz team could be in the playoff race versus where it currently stands.  At 29-23, Memphis trails both 8th seed Golden State and 7th seed Phoenix by 1½ games, and 6th place Dallas by 2 games. Furthermore, the Rockets, Clippers, and Trailblazers claim the 3, 4, and 5 seeds respectively, with all three holding a 6½ game cushion over the Grizzlies.  This means Memphis is well within striking distance of a number of playoff scenarios and match-ups, all contingent on performance and of course good health.

Standings from espn.com

Standings from espn.com

A Note on Tiebreakers

If a tie were to occur between the Grizzlies and any Southwest division foe (most likely Dallas and Houston at this point), the Grizzlies will ultimately lose said tie based on NBA tie breaking rules, which state that a tie between two divisional opponents is first decided by head to head results, and, in the case of a season series tie, record against divisional opponents determines the higher seed.  At 2-11 in the division, and with only 3 Southwest games remaining (New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas), Memphis has dug too deep of a hole should that scenario emerge.  Thus, even the season series split with Houston would prove futile when comparing overall divisional records.  Despite the shortcomings against regional rivals, the fact that people such as 5 time NBA Champion Steve Kerr are already dubbing Memphis as “the team nobody wants to play” is a further testament to the competitiveness and quality of the Southwest division.

Steve Kerr

Injuries Have Made Team Stronger

While many people wonder where the Grizz “could be”, I look at where the team is now, and where they began the season. The additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson improved the roster on both sides of the floor.  In Tony Allen’s absence, Courtney Lee has provided solid defense and reliable, timely three point shooting.  James Johnson appeared out of nowhere, showing an uncanny ability to get to the rim, guard the perimeter, and block shots at will.  Marc Gasol’s early exit provided invaluable experience for Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer.  

Then there is the polarizing topic of Nick Calathes.  Say what you will about the Greek-American and former Florida Gator, but most if not all NBA rookies require an adjustment period, and while there may be too little time left in the playoff race to endure an “adjustment period”, signs point towards Calathes turning the corner.  Since we flipped the calendar to February, Calathes has scored double digits in 6 of 7 games, showing to be more capable from 3 than originally thought.  He is 9 of 22 from beyond the arc in these seven games for a .409 3P%.  His deceptive size (listed at 6’6″ in your programs) can create matchup problems as well.  Again, in February, Calathes has one game with 1 steal, one game with 2 steals, and two games with 3 and 4 steals each. Do the arithmetic, carry the one, and that’s 18 steals in 6 games. Not too shabby. 

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Still, turnovers remain an issue.  6 against Cleveland in a loss, 6 against Dallas in a loss, and 4 against Atlanta in a tight win on the road.  Let’s be real for a second, no one is arguing that Calathes is a starting point guard for this team.  He has been thrust into a starting role for an indefinite but brief period. Mike Conley will return after the All Star Break, so it’s not like the team is counting on Calathes to lead the Grizz into the playoff hunt.  Even then, the transfer window remains open until the trade deadline passes next Thursday, February 20th at 2PM Central time.  So, time remains for possible upgrades if the front office desires to do so.  However, history can be linked between the front office and Calathes.  A Memphis Flyer article from June 2013 noted what would have happened “If Holliner Had Made The Picks”

The Remaining Hurdles – A Look at the Schedule Down the Stretch

Only 13 home games remain in the regular season, and 17 on the road.  The standings graphic above shows the Grizzlies have actually produced results away from home, with a 15-9 record outside of FedExForum.  On the other hand, a 14-14 record in Memphis has left something to be desired.  Home headliners include the second game out of the break, February 21st against the Clippers, where the first 5,000 fans receive the highly anticipated GRIZZLIES fake neck tattoo.  In March, games against the Trailblazers and East leading Pacers loom, in what should be a defensive clinic.  Finally, the season winds down in April with ESPN broadcasted games against Denver and Miami, and the season finale against Dallas which could turn into a 1 game series “play in” scenario.

February 28th will be the first big road test against the familiar Thunder in OKC.  A jam packed March gives way to 17 Grizz games, with 11 coming on the road.  An ESPN game in Chicago comes March 7th.  March 21st brings the first matchup of the year against reigning champ Miami.  Then, another ESPN game in Utah on March 26th kicks off a 5 game road trip that extends into April.  Opponents include Golden State, Portland, and Denver.  Furthermore, games in San Antonio (on NBATV), Los Angeles (Lakers), and Phoenix await.

First 15

courtesy ESPN.com

courtesy ESPN.com

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long tough road to the finish. 17 of the 30 games remaining come against playoff teams by my count (East and West), and more games on the road than at home as already noted (which could be good if the first 52 games indicate anything).  In my opinion, the Grizzlies boast way too much experience compared to Golden State and Phoenix, teams Memphis has performed well against this year.  With the team looking for its 4th consecutive playoff birth led by an incumbent core, it seems unthinkable that this team would not reach the playoffs.  A stellar stretch run could see the Grizz fighting for home court advantage.  If injuries continue to impose their will, then Memphis in May will seem a little empty this year.

To be honest, I am not concerned about the playoff race.  It will play out, and the best teams will earn their place.  It will be a heated race right up until the spot has been clinched, but confidence is key.  The only thing I am really worried about is what the new growl towels will look like.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

-Travis Nauert