But seriously, the time has changed. The Memphis Grizzlies are down in South Beach today for a matinee meeting (3:30 p.m. EST) with the Miami Heat. An attempted preview of the NBA's Next Biggest Game and Test of Character in the Universe, after the jump...
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When we last left the Grizzlies, they were coming back on the New York Knicks only to fall victim to a Carmelo Anthony pull-up jumper. These things happen. Memphis's aggressive, bouncing off the walls style of defense burned them as the Knicks poured in threes, but the effort, nor the intensity, of that game can be overlooked or faulted. Sometimes it just doesn't work out in the end. The Grizzlies didn't take a step back on Wednesday, it was simply a misstep.
Other times, as in the Miami Heat's case, the ripcord was pulled at the last possible moment. Dwyane Wade made some plays in the closing minutes, Chris Bosh played like a Boshtrich out of its natural habitat, and supporting bros like Mike Bibby and Mike Miller -- the Mike and Mike of the Heat, which works on many different levels -- actually made the open jump-shots that having teammates like Wade and LeBron James will afford you as the Heat outlasted the Lakers on Thursday.
It was a game the SuperTeam needed to win for no other reason than I'm not sure how many more levels their collective reputation around the league could've sunk with late-game failure. It was also a game they could've rather easily lost; the Miami Heat did not wake out of whatever funk they were in and they did not make some threatening statement as a precursor for things to come; they just found a way to win a close game this time.
What I'm saying is this Heat game, for the Grizzlies, is only different because Miami doesn't currently have the stink of anxiety and "OMG If We Don't Find A Way to Win This Game Everyone That Hates Us Will Laugh" on them as much as it was a few days ago. They're the same thinly-sliced, meandering half-team, with, of course, two of the best players in the universe; they just probably don't dread microphones as much as they did before Thursday.
Memphis does not have to carry the burden of continuing the pile-on for sport's favorite schadenfreude, though I'm sure few would take exception if they did. So maybe a tiny, tiny bit of the pressure has been released from the cooker in Miami. That could also, hopefully, help the Grizzlies to focus on just playing ball in that likely half-filled arena, and that's good, that's what we want; Memphis has been doing that well lately.
For all the little deciding factors that go into a basketball game, the Grizzlies lost last on a pull-up jumper. A coin flip, maybe not with even odds since 'Melo was shooting it, but a coin flip. Their style, when it's unwavering, and energy, when it's, well, brought, have them on the brink of the playoffs. They don't need to change what they do, just continue the journey of honing it.
The basketball world will be watching because of their work-in-progress opponents, but all the Grizzlies should worry about is progress itself. And hopefully it comes down to the last five minutes. Hey, whatever gets people talking, right?