Even in defeat, if you can't find a way to smile looking at this, well, then I just don't know what to say to you. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
All told, the Dallas Mavericks needed this one just a tad more than the Memphis Grizzlies did on Wednesday night. Even after the 95-85 loss, the Grizz still stand one game ahead of Dallas in the constantly-shifting and swapping loss column, as sturdy a fifth place in the Western Conference as a piece of cardboard, yes, but following a three-games-in-three-nights stint in which the nemesis Oklahoma City Thunder were, for the time, vanquished and the Golden State Warriors were outlasted the following night, a road loss to the Mavericks, really, isn't all that bad or surprising. Even the 34 second half points against the Mavs can be attributed to a team doing its best with what was left in the tank -- and again, Dallas needed the win, especially since they'll be making a trip to the Grindhouse on Saturday.
The Grizzlies may have fallen, but no one in or around the league will think less of them for finally succumbing to the fatigue that three games -- and two on the road, no less -- in three consecutive nights will bring.
The other thing about the Dallas loss, after the jump.
Okay, the thing about the Dallas loss is that, because of that win over the Thunder on Monday, this one is expendable both in mind and standings. A loss to the Warriors, which looked somewhat likely for awhile Tuesday night, would not have worked or made sense on any level or with any explanation (especially since they appear to be in full-on Tank Mode). But in defeating Oklahoma City in their gym, while they were playing at one of the peaks of their regular season, for the first time since Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals last season -- May 13, 2011 to be exact -- Grizz nation, the organization, players, and us fans, got that lingering Thunder monkey (which sounds like a pretty awesome mascot) off the collective back of all involved, for the very short-minded time being.
I don't believe the Grizzlies need to further validate their postseason run of last year or their continued perseverance through every injury and setback thrown their way in an already insane schedule this year, but beating the Thunder again just felt like a long time coming, an obstacle on some level overcome, and that kind of satisfying feeling that lingers in a quick-fire season where little does. Normally, we're left to absorb an outcome as best as possible, taking into account the eccentricities of lineups, injuries, minutes and the like before the next game tips; in this case, two nights and one loss later, that victory still feels like a significant signature in a year of rubber-stamping and moving on.
All that and the Grizzlies, as we mentioned, still sit above the Mavericks in the standings. It's hard to blame Memphis for losing this one regardless, and a rematch this weekend makes looking for revenge all too easy. Yet in the big picture, the playoffs remain anything but guaranteed; the Grizzlies' next six games look like this:
Friday -- at Miami.
Saturday -- versus Dallas.
Monday, April 9 -- versus the Clippers.
Wednesday, April 11 -- versus Phoenix.
Thursday, April 12 -- at San Antonio.
Saturday, April 14 -- versus Utah.
Championship, playoff, or at least playoff-contending teams, all of them. The road does not, in any way, get lighter, but if this back-to-back-to-back taught us anything about Memphis, it's that what we already knew or thought to be true remains accurate: The Grizzlies will fight anyone to the death, basically. On some nights, that means doing what's necessary to get by Golden State; on others, it means hanging around until the well is dry in a losing effort. But there's also times when Memphis isn't so much fighting or scraping as they are doing things exactly how they want them to be done. On those nights, even when it's not perfect or pretty, the Grizzlies can beat any team in the league. Going forward, all they need to recall on the court is what first brought them here, and what still continues to show up when they're at their most dangerous.
It's in this regard that Grit and Grind, the catchy and ready-to-use, obvious franchise slogan, remains the best way to describe this team to anyone still getting affiliated. It's not an easy way out if it's almost always true, through the good and bad, and it's not something Grizzlies fans would want changed anytime soon.