Here we are, at long last. After tomorrow’s game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers, somebody is going to play the Spurs in the second round, and somebody is going to start their summer vacation earlier than they had hoped.
After Game 6’s comeback run – inspired in no small part by Hamed Haddadi’s intensity on the offensive and defensive boards – the Grizzlies held on to win their first ever elimination game on the road. Now they have to play another elimination game at home, at noon in front of what promises to be a raucous, unruly crowd united in one purpose: will their Grizzlies to a victory.
After the jump, what it’ll take for the Grizz to win.
The same things that propelled the Grizzlies to victory in Game 6 are going to have to happen for them to win Game 7.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were both hampered by injury in the previous game, which one would think would work in the Grizzlies’ favor, except for one thing: Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe has torched the Grizzlies in this series, proving to be a huge nightmare to defend effectively. He continued that in Game 6. Containing Bledsoe and limiting the effect his intensity and energy has on the Clippers is going to be a key factor in tomorrow’s game.
Zach Randolph (finally) had a monster game, racking up 18 points and 16 rebounds in 38 minutes. He told the TNT broadcast crew after Game 5 that he felt like he was operating at 75–80% of where he wanted to be, so this performance has to make Grizz fans wonder where this team would be if he hadn’t gone down with an MCL injury so early in the season.
Defensive intensity is the only reason this Grizzlies team is taken as seriously as they are. That intensity is going to be ratcheted up by the crowd, who will more than likely be out for Clipper blood. Smart, harassing defense is going to get this team to the next round. Not getting a hand up in the face of a hot shooter (looking at you, Rudy Gay) is going to get them nowhere. They have to play like their lives depend on it – same way they’ve played the last two games – because, well, they do depend on it.
I don’t know what else to say about this game that hasn’t already been said. This series has dragged on through the last weeks like a grindhouse horror movie (see what I did there?) leaving a trail of blood, bodies, and bizarre officiating spanning from Tennessee to California. If the Grizzlies win, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief and prepare to take on a well-rested Spurs team eager to prove that last year’s Spurs-Grizzlies series was a fluke. If they lose, we’ll be left to wonder how this series ever spiraled to this crazy place, this fever pitch of bad blood. We'll wonder how this one got away.
This series has contained multitudes. There are narratives buried in this conflict that may never be teased out, put forth on paper. All we can do now is sit back and watch as two teams with everything on the line take the court and try to advance, one with a crowd of 18,000 believers behind them, one surrounded by 18,000 enemies.
At any rate, it’ll be memorable.