OKC Eliminate Grizz

Game 7

In the end, the league’s MVP rose to the occasion. Faced twice with a game deficit, once at 2-1 and again at 3-2, Kevin Durant willed his team into the Western Conference semifinals.

For the Grizzlies, a season filled with nausea and injury, ecstasy and myocardial infarction has ended. No shame, no regrets. A first round series worthy of the Western Conference Finals concluded after seven games, 4 overtimes, 3 4-point plays, a nationally broadcast Tony Allen defensive clinic, a Nick Calathes suspension, a subsequent Beno Udrih emergence, a Joey Crawford spaz-attack, the least efficient triple double in history courtesy of Russell Westbrook, a wooden hat worn by Mike Conley, a Zach Randolph punch, a subsequent Zach Randolph suspension (not without controversy), and an untimely Mike Conley hamstring injury. Surely I missed something.

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

Many (outside Memphis) predicted the Thunder in 6 or 7, and the latter was the result. For Grizzlies players and fans, countless what ifs come to mind, specifically regarding games 4 and 6. But as the great philosopher Tony Allen said “if ifs were fifths, we’d all be drunk”.

Today, Kevin Durant was dubbed Most Valuable Player, and in games 6 and 7 he showed why. In games 1-5, however, he was effectively shut down regardless of point totals. He was relegated to a corner decoy, as Westbrook and Reggie Jackson did their best to shoulder the load of creation and instigation.

It’s over, in the past, and time to move on.

Looking to 2014-15

With a full season including an epic playoff series under his belt, Dave Joerger will look to build on a positive first campaign at the helm. When chosen to replace Lionel Hollins, mixed feelings were abound. In truth, much of the protest was not directed towards him, his philosophy, lack of professional head coaching experience, or willingness to embrace analytics. Rather, it was the failure to renew Hollins’ contract after a decade of service to the franchise (dating back to Vancouver), a resume of improving success, and an attitude of I don’t give a damn where you’re from, what you’ve done before, what you’re up against now, finish the job. His mantra goes, “Everyday life throws a knife at you, how do you respond?”

It’s safe to say that mentality was engrained in the heads of Allen, Conley, Gasol, and Randolph, and now lives on through the new regime. Faced with countless obstacles this year, no excuses were made. Even in the face of overwhelming adversity (suspension, injury), the team jumped out to lead the Thunder in game 7. There was simply no gas left in the tank, and not enough fire power in the arsenal.

The outlook is positive for the Grizz, but major questions loom.

Contracts and Personnel

Clearly the biggest question is what will become of Zach Randolph. A player option is on the table for $16.5 million in the upcoming season. He could also opt out of the current contract for a multi-year deal in Memphis or elsewhere. Should he opt out and renegotiate with Memphis at a lower rate, there will be a lot more flexibility to sign a wing scorer which the team desperately lacks as the offense is still prone to snoozing.

Names have been thrown around like Thaddeus Young, Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza and others. Ariza and Hayward could demand higher level money, which would eliminate the Grizz as they need to remain below the luxury tax. A player like Hayward, however, fits the mentality of the team, has played well in a small market, and could accept less for a chance at title contention. Thaddeus Young is an interesting option. A New Orleans born turned Memphian (he played high school ball at Mitchell), Young is long and atheltic. He can attack the basket and play above the rim. He would also add to our stable of lefties. Ariza would be best in terms of outside shooting, but has played so well for the Wiz in the playoffs that he may no longer be in reach.

For one of these pieces to be added, of course, someone will have to go. Tayshaun Prince is a likely candidate, if a package/trade partner can be found. Quincy Pondexter could be on the chopping block as well. Despite his heart filled Conference Finals performance two years ago, a season ending injury in addition to a series of exchanges with Dave Joerger during an early season game against Brooklyn could see him voted off the island. James Johnson brought good energy, but was only on a season long contract, and received little to no playing time down the stretch due to his Tony Allen trick or treatish nature.

Beyond wing players, momentum is mounting for the return of Pau Gasol. The chance at redemption (not unlike Battier and Mike Miller) plus an opportunity to play with his brother in a familiar setting is well documented as a logical and attractive outcome for Gasol the elder.

There will be much more written in the coming days, and weeks, especially building towards the lottery and draft. The front office will have new avenues open, and others close depending on how the ping pong balls fall and the conclusion of the playoffs.

Until, then stay cool. It’s heating up outside.

-Travis Nauert

3rd Quarter, Game 6: When the Wheels Came off and Caron Butler’s Life Nearly Ended

Well, that was painful.

Admittedly, I was spared Kevin Durant’s 14 point first quarter barrage. I was taking a final exam which started at 7PM (yes, that’s a thing), and perhaps it was an omen that gauging my eyes out Oedipus Rex style (maternal incest aside) would have been less excruciating than watching the 30 minutes that I did. After awkwardly speed walking back to my apartment, I proceeded to curse Ed Malloy, Ken Mauer, and Rodney Mott as they abused the Grizzlies with their whistles.

3rd Quarter

9:45- 2 minutes and 15 seconds pass and I’ve thrown around enough expletives to warrant a visit to the nearest parish. 4 quick fouls on the Grizzlies and none on the Thunder, Dave Joerger earns a technical.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

8:26- A fifth team foul for Memphis sentences them to the penalty. Free throws for the Thunder the rest of the quarter, because you know the calls are coming. Westbrook makes both.

6:13- Tayshaun Prince commits the sixth team foul. Durant sinks the first. James Johnson checks in, much to Joerger’s chagrin. Durant sinks the second. A 15 point deficit has increased to 20.

5:50- Gasol is pick pocketed by Westbrook

5:47- Johnson fouls Durant on the shot. He makes both free throws.

5:20- Perkins is whistled for a moving screen. First Thunder foul of the quarter. Perk gives his best mean mug, but really just frowns regretting his pre-game meal.

S**t Gets Real

5:03- Tony Allen attacks the ball, possessed by the plump Caron Butler. Butler fears for the plastic straw on which he religiously chews. He’s rationing it throughout the game as a gluten free snack. His head snaps back, drawing a foul. He almost chokes, and the strategy nearly backfires. A confrontation ensues involving Butler, Tony Allen, and James Johnson.

i-4

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Side Note): James Johnson, a second degree black belt, is the son of two black belts, and the brother of 7 siblings (all black belts). He was 18 when he won his first MMA fight in 97 seconds, is 7-0 all time, and 20-0 in kickboxing fights. Don’t screw with James Johnson. Did I mention Tony Allen is also present. ZBo can’t be far either.

Photo by Nikki Boertman

Photo by Nikki Boertman

For more on dojo master James Johnson: (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/they-call-him-bloodsport-james-johnson-kicks-his-way-into-the-nba/)

A double technical is assessed to Butler and Johnson. Nervously chomping down on his pacifier, I mean straw, Butler misses the first of two free throws. He cleans his britches and makes the second.

1:17- Tempers cool, kind of, as almost 4 minutes pass before another foul is issued. #2 on the Thunder, god forbid. Johnson draws the infraction on New Zealand ogre Steven Adams. “Bloodsport” makes both shots.

0:43- Kevin Durant draws a foul, splits the pair from the line.

0:02- Westbrook is feeling left out, and that simply won’t fly on his watch. He draws a foul on Big Spain to close out the quarter, making both free throws.

0:00- End of 3rd Quarter. Thunder lead 82-61.

Fouls in 3rd Quarter

Grizzlies: 10

Thunder: 2

Granted, the final count was 19-19, but the damage was done.

Overall, very disheartening. Despite the lackluster, nonchalant performance with the usual abundance of missed free throws, the Grizzlies still had opportunities to make a game out of it. After the Johnson-Butler showdown, the energy shifted back in Memphis’ favor, but the Grizz never made up enough ground to threaten the Thunder.

Adding insult to injury, or perhaps the other way around, Mike Conley left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. He tried to return, but was extremely hobbled. In the post game interview, he admitted to feeling pain but remarked “I plan on playing…There’s no chance I miss it.”

The Grizzlies are 0-2 all time in game 7s. In 2011, Memphis lost to OKC in the conference semifinals. A year later, they lost at home to the Clippers in the first round, unable to escape the damage of blowing a 27 point lead in game 1.

Hey, there’s no time like the present right?

Game 7

Saturday, May 3rd

7:00 PM Central

Chesapeake Energy Arena, OKC.

 

-Travis Nauert

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

Fear and Loathing in OKC

He chuckled. “As your attorney,” he said, “I advise you not worry.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit.”

   “What is it?” 

   “Adrenochrome,” he said. “You won’t need much. Just a little tinytaste.”

   I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.

   “That’s about right,” he said. “That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You’ll go completely crazy if you take too much.”

…My body felt like I’d just been wired into a 220 volt socket.


   It was after midnight when I finally was able to talk and move around . . . but I was still not free of the drug; the voltage had merely been cranked down from 220 to 110. I was a babbling nervous wreck, flapping around the room like a wild animal, pouring sweat and unable to concentrate on any one thought for more than two or three seconds at a time.

-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 

Hopefully, you’ve read that book, or at least seen the movie. But even if you haven’t, I’ll take it that you can sympathize with why these lines came to mind after Monday night’s game 2 between the Grizz and Thunder. As midnight passed, I struggled to hit my REM cycle with an exam approaching in just over 12 hours. I was jacked up on adrenochrome. Ok, it was just regular naturally secreted adrenaline, but a deluge had flooded my bloodstream.

It’s likely that some residual pain from the 3 OT loss will always linger, but for now, most of it has dissipated. Just as Mike Conley and Greivis Vasquez connected on desperation heaves forcing extra time in that classic three years ago, last night Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins added to the archive of highlights which exemplify the ongoing roshambo that is the Grizzlies-Thunder rivalry. The unfortunate nature of those specific highlights, for Memphis fans in 2011 and now Oklahoma City fans in 2014, is that they came in losing efforts.

Up 5 with under 30 seconds remaining, a glimpse of light shone on the Grizzlies as they had seemingly done enough to split on the road and head home with the series tied 1-1. Then Kevin Durant happened.  A near Tony Allen steal turned into a freak 4 point play as Marc Gasol hip checked KD, who simultaneously saved a dangerous Westbrook pass (Westbrook out of control, no way?) and launched a shot from the corner as he fell into court-side seating. It was the only thing, aside from choking at the foul line, which Memphians know too much about, that could have kept OKC alive. And it did.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

On the last play of regulation, after a split pair of Conley free throws, Westbrook bombed a potential game winning three, but it hit the front iron and bounced far side into the hands of the bumbling Kendrick Perkins. K-Perk put the ball off the glass for his first and only shot attempt of the game. The ball travelled the circumference of the rim as if by habit, confused by the accuracy of his placement and expecting to finagle its way out of the basket. Eventually, it dropped through the net and on the game went to extra time, tied at 99.

Not to worry. Zach went ham, as in hamburglar, taking what was rightfully his in overtime and outscoring the Thunder by himself 8-6. The Grizz went up for good with 26 seconds remaining as TA dropped a sly dish to ZBo on the left post that he finished calmly.

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

There were many noteworthy contributions. Mike Miller’s three late in regulation off a Conley assist regained a briefly squandered lead. Beno Udrih’s 14 points came on 6-8 shooting. The latter sparked a series of puns including Geoff Calkins’ claim that Beno gave Memphis “a shot of Udrihnaline”, especially appropriate for this post. Courtney Lee had a quiet 16 points, if there ever were such a thing for this frequently offensively challenged team. Despite feeling the force of Serge Ibaka’s league leading shot blocking ability, Ed Davis provided a quick burst of energy with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 9 minutes.

And then there was The Grindfather. 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals fail to measure his effect on the game and importance to the team. Throughout, and especially down the stretch, TA made OKC players and fans wildly uncomfortable. Whether through face guarding, fronting, or denying the passing lane, Tony did it all. He would even switch off Durant and onto Westbrook in the same possession, effectively blowing the Thunder’s mind and dropping a TA bomb on their offensive sets. It was vintage Tony Allen. Enjoy:

Ok, so his poise and decisiveness on the fast break and offensive end wasn’t necessarily vintage, but it was brilliant.

The emotion that followed the final buzzer was one part relief, one part elation, and two parts I need new underwear. The win shifts home court advantage in Memphis’ favor as the series moves to the Grindhouse for games 3 & 4. The Grizz look to extend a franchise record 14 game home win streak.

Last night saw some milestones reached as well, with Memphis donning Beale Street Blue for the first time in playoff history. Also, Coach Joerger earned his first playoff victory. Congrats, Coach. Joerger-bombs for everyone!

 

-Travis Nauert

Dragon Slayed

Grizz top Suns, Clinch 4th consecutive playoff birth

The Grizzlies started fast, faltered midway, but finished strong to stave off the desperate Suns, eliminating Phoenix from postseason contention and punching themselves a ticket to the Western Conference Playoffs. ZBo continued his late season dominance, posting a season high 32 points for his first 30+ game since 2012. His final score came with 47 seconds left off a 1 on 2 lumbering “fast break”. ZBo’s bear paw stole a Goran Dragic pass as he set off on a marauding full court rampage. He came to a jump stop, then pulled an up and under move on P.J. Tucker and Channing Frye before kissing the orange off the glass. Memphis led 95-91 at that point.

Mike Conley was his usual clutch self with 8 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds in the final five minutes. Mike Miller, who stands as the lone Grizzly to play in all 81 games thus far (who woulda thunk it), recorded his own season high of 21 points, going 5-6 from beyond the arc, including a pivotal bomb from the right wing with just over 3 minutes remaining. A Conley three coming from the same spot as Miller’s gave Memphis the lead for good at 93-91.  The next possession, Zach got his coast to coast bucket which was eerily similar to a sequence that came against the Spurs in round 1 of the 2011 playoffs. Going 1-4 from the foul line in the last 30 seconds, Conley left the window open, but Memphis prevailed anyway by a final score of 97-91.

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Tony Allen brought his essential, erratic energy as usual. After a strong third quarter by Phoenix saw the Suns take the lead, TA went end to end and gracefully (no, but really) scored a scooping layup (pictured above) as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter.  Down the stretch he guarded Dragic, alternating with Mike Conley and forcing others to initiate the Suns’ offense.

The win clinched a franchise record fourth consecutive playoff berth, and an opportunity to seize the 7th seed and a matchup against OKC should the Grizzlies get past Dallas on Wednesday. Beating the Mavericks would also give the Grizz another franchise record in the form of 14 straight home wins. Last Friday’s win over the 76’ers tied the previous mark of 13. A series with OKC would obviously be more desirable than one with the Spurs, who own the best record in the league at 62-19. That also happens to be the best record San Antonio has achieved in the Popovich-Duncan era. For reference, the Spurs are about to embark on their 17th consecutive playoff campaign, tying the Lakers streak from ’77-’93 which saw them win 5 championships.

Just prior to tipoff, Matthew Preston, aka Grizzlam (twitter handle @mattyp90), sent shockwaves through the twitter verse, silencing @sunsaholic’s tiresome all-caps rant.  Additionally, he dropped this masterpiece:

 

image by @mattyp90

image by @mattyp90

All of the Grizzlies pictured above, in addition to Mike Miller, played a critical role in downing the Suns, led by the Dragon.  Admittedly, Dragic had an incredible season pacing Phoenix under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek.  A team predicted to win 20 some odd games grossly overachieved, especially considering Eric Bledsoe missed almost half the season (39 games).

With the Grizzlies failing to clinch a playoff spot until last night, some fans might have wondered if ZBo could possibly be playing his final home game in FedEx Forum Wednesday night should Memphis miss out on the postseason. An impending contract situation plus front office desires to further leave their mark on the team has created doubt in the minds of a couple people. For now, Zach refused to let his time in Memphis get cut short, as he has added at the very least an additional two home games to schedule. In management’s defense, Tony Allen’s new contract is nothing short of a sign to further commitment with the current core. With Memphis etched into this year’s playoffs under first year coach Dave Joerger, it would appear ZBo will be donning Beale Street Blue for the foreseeable future, and that’s how it should be. Plus, can you imagine him in any other uniform now?

(AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

 

-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:

SBNation

SBNation

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

Spring break and the living’s easy.

It’s always nice returning home to Memphis.

It’s my last Spring Break of college, and I’ll admit, I’m a little sad I’m not sipping a tropical drink on some beach somewhere. I do, however, get to spend it in the second best vacation spot. I’ll be in Memphis, still sipping that tropical drink, of course.

I’ve got all I need here. Good people, good food and my mom giving the refs a piece of her mind while we crowd on the couch for the Grizzlies game. My erratic fandom didn’t develop recently; I bleed blue (to the dismay to many of my Volunteer comrades).

But you already knew that.

Let’s just say I’m relieved I wasn’t in town to witness the aftermath of the Memphis-U Conn game Thursday night. At my house, its all Memphis basketball all the time. I’m the misfit that “ran off to that orange place.”

But really, it’s lovely to be surrounded by people who are just like you. My mom is that Grizz fan that gets motherly instincts: she’s proud of her boys when things are going well and she gets heart broken  when they aren’t. Lately, my dad truly believes that he jinxes the Grizzlies whenever he’s in the TV room. He’s the most cerebral, rational man I know, and he will literally exit the room if we’re losing. I wish I was kidding. My grandma may be the biggest fan I know. She adores Mike Conley; partially because he’s an elite point guard but mostly because he smiles a lot. I’m being serious. For the past four years, her love hasn’t wained a bit because Conley has just grown more charming.

But I digress. Let’s talk some basketball.

Tonight’s game in Philadelphia was a gimme. It was the 76ers 20th loss in a row, and naturally my thought is “phew, glad we weren’t the ones to break that streak.” They tied their franchise record of 20 consecutive losses, proving that breaking records isn’t always such a good thing. Except tonight it was good for the Grizz, of course. 

We’re sitting precariously in the Western Conference neck-and-neck with Dallas. Now, the goal is to make sure Phoenix can’t catch up. Ideally, we want the Grizz to surpass the Mavericks so we can avoid San Antonio in the first round. If my opinion counts, I think we should give Jon Leuer more PT. Grizzlies_Pistons_Basketball.JPEG-03046_t607Every time he gets a shot on the floor he shines, specifically brighter than Ed Davis. Also, Tayshaun Prince has given me some doubts. I read a post on Rant Sports about the horrendous effects of keeping Prince and Tony Allen on the court at the same time. Both can’t shoot the ball, limiting the Grizzlies’ options on offense. This is just one of the many questionable lineup decisions of Dave Joerger.

Another key: keeping the bench efficient on offense. One of the main components of “grit n’ grind” is spreading the points scored across the lineup. We’re not the team to rely on one guy to get it done. What’s more Memphis than that?

 

 

The Grizzlies have a three day break before taking on the 22- 44 Jazz in the FedEx Forum.

So, I guess the Grizz are kind of on Spring Break too. They are heading to Miami on Friday after all.

-Casey Black