Grizzlies top the Thunder, 107-97; But are they really title contenders?

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Grizzlies finish off the Oklahoma City Thunder in a nationally televised game, sending the nation into a bit of a frenzy.

In the span of three nights -- or, two games -- the Memphis Grizzlies beat both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder by double digits. And, yes, if you are scoring at home, the Heat and the Thunder represent the two teams that met in the 2012 NBA Finals. So, what'd you do this week?

Last night's game felt more like a Grizzlies performance than Sunday's spanking of the Heat. There wasn't a Wayne Ellington "career game" or a Marc Gasol 2-point performance. It was essentially business as usual, which is great news when you try and gage whether or not this team is "for real."

Credit Rudy Gay for having yet another fairly dominant performance. In matchups with LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Gay hung in there, at times looking like he actually belonged in the same conversation alongside the two best players in the NBA. His shot selection wasn't perfect -- and it never will be -- but in all he played a fairly contained, highly energized game. He finished with a team-high 28 points on 12-of-21 shooting, and made two of this three 3-point attempts.

Zach Randolph was great, too, notching yet another double-double (20 and 11) and punking fake tough guy Kendrick Perkins.

Gasol had a nice game, especially on the defensive side of the ball, manning the paint and keeping his hands active -- two blocks and two steals. He also proved yet again that he's arguably the best passing big man in the NBA. Mark it. (Get it? Mark... Marc... never mind.)

On defense the Grizzlies thrived. They Let Kevin Durant get his (34 points) and were introduced to the more offensive-minded Serge Ibaka (17 points), but they forced 15 turnovers, pushed Russell Westbrook into taking long jumpers and contested shots, and held Kevin Martin in check (7 points). It was about as good of a defensive performance as you could hope for against such a high-flying offense.

So, where does this leave the Grizzlies now? Are we getting ahead of ourselves in saying that they're a title contender just seven games into an 82-game season? I mean, I don't think so.

Last night's game, more so than Sunday's win over the Heat, was probably a more true look as to what we're capable of. Again, there was no Ellington career-game, no crazy 14-three performance, no outlier, if you will.

The Grizzlies are, in all seriousness, one of the Top 5 teams in the NBA, and no further removed from being a title contender than the Heat, the Thunder, the Spurs or the Knicks. They are right there, and absolutely in the conversation.

I know, it's a long season, but my expectations are that it's going to be an ever longer post-season.



For more on the Thunder: Welcome to Loud City

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