This is exactly how it was, and wasn't, supposed to happen. Many expected the Memphis Grizzlies to challenge the San Antonio Spurs in this first round playoff series and, in some cases, maybe even pull the ultimate upset. But how often does it play out like this? So seemingly perfect in regards to what had to be done for a grueling series, to what the prearranged strengths and weaknesses were, and to what some thought, on paper, could be seen as these two teams became paired with one another (thanks to some Grizz-tanking). How often does it actually come to fruition in such an undoubtedly resounding way? The Grizzlies are up 3-1 on the Spurs. Whether you see that as making sense or not depends on what you're looking at. But it's also not that easy.
The NBA is known for, both positively and negatively, sometimes at the same time, the predictability of the playoffs -- positively because the best teams, and therefore the best match-ups, are left standing in the later rounds; negatively because those who don't enjoy the ride can act as if they knew the outcome all along, as if it is some sort of skill or as if that's something one would want: To ignore the stories leading up to the conclusion and trying to figure out the plot from there.
But I digress. The point here is the NBA hears it from both sides, and this series, the way the Grizzlies have handled things thus far, has brought everything. While folks did indeed predict a tight series, maybe even a Memphis win if one was feeling bold (or was Charles Barkley), nobody saw the complete decimation of the Spurs in the second half of Game Four taking place. Not under the circumstances of being down 2-1, and not the way the series had went in the first three grind-it-outers. It was just so, so incredible to try and process.
It's easy to see a prediction possibly happening. To see, if everything falls into place, if this guy contributes this and that guy defends their guy like that, that sure, maybe this eight seed could have a chance; maybe if these weren't the NBA playoffs, where the cream always rises, of course. It's the stuff we all say and think when we try and preview these upcoming match-ups. Even if the conversation's not always that serious, the devil's advocate at least shows up for a bit, if only to humor the more creative-thinking minds. Because you might as well pay mind to these teams while they're still around, right?
But to see this Grizzlies team and its utter disregard for the Spurs and what The Spurs means in the NBA, and NBA playoff, lore, to see them just walk right on by all the frills and things that we believe -- and usually do -- hold some water when the postseason comes around -- the experience, the pedigree, the rings -- and to see what it means when a basketball team is simply better at basketball in a given series than another team is to actually see one of those "what-if" situations playing out in full force. That's what makes this one different from the Mavs-Warriors of a few years ago: Dallas had just let a championship slip through their grasp a year before. When they fell to Golden State, it was the continued crumbling of a franchise that couldn't quite make it to the top. San Antonio has been there, they're seen as champions, making Game Four all the more shocking and impressive when you think that the Grizzlies simply won't let these guys catch their breath.
It's watching something that maybe you thought would happen, yet now that it's actually here in front of your eyes, it remains really quite amazing. Maybe it's what it would feel like for a long-time Loch Ness Monster believer to finally see the damn guy, I don't know. We do know that this doesn't happen to one seeds very often, and despite recent playoff lulls, people don't associate these kind of beatdowns happening to the proud Spurs.
Strip it down to basketball and you'll see the basic, pure energy of a team rooting for one another and staunchly refusing to play anything else than their basketball -- their crazy, crazy basketball -- and what's left is a series that maybe has gone exactly the way it should be going to this point. Whatever pre-series thoughts were in your own head, whether you're smelling like a rose or feeling rather misguided at this point, no one could've seen Game Four coming like it did. If looking through the prism that says the NBA is about the better teams with the brighter stars always advancing, this has to be a confusing series to comprehend. Unless, of course, one looked at what they were seeing.
The match-ups have been there all along. The potential for something more than "Spurs in Five" was there, but the old guard's reputation will always linger. The Spurs are the Spurs and, until the Grizzlies have four wins in this series instead of three, they'll still be the Spurs. For that reason, because that does count for something in this league, one more win has to be taken from them. Memphis cannot assume it'll get that out of hand again, and though San Antonio is reeling, they know what this means as well, and the window is still cracked open; however slightly will depend on Game Four's lasting impact.
Sure, as followers of this Memphis team, we might've thought this could happen -- thought this series could be the franchise-flag-staking type of series we've hoped for -- but now that we're living it, now that it's a game away, how could you predict it would look and feel like this? Predictions get a bit crazier when they meet our wildest imaginations, that's for sure.