Physical. Tough. Ugly. Hard-nosed. Grind it out. Downright abusive, at times. The list of adjectives that describe the Memphis Grizzlies' style of play sounds an awful lot like how a championship boxer fights. Their style is a stark contrast to many teams in today's run-up-and-down-the-court-and-jack-up-shots NBA.
While not very aesthetically pleasing to outsiders, it is effective - case and point the Grizzlies recent run of success and 4-0 start to the 2014 season. "That's how we play," Marc Gasol said following his 16 point, 11 rebound, 3 block performance in a 93-81 win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. "We're going to try to go inside and go through bodies. It doesn't matter if it's Anthony Davis or (Omer) Asik or whoever we're playing. That's how we play."
The Memphis Grizzlies are off to a franchise best start, and the defense is surrendering just 85 points per game. "We're going to try to put teams down in the mud and slow them down a little bit," Gasol went on to say.
Tony Allen, often labeled one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, had to say about the Grizzlies' style of play through the first four games, "It's my favorite style of basketball. Just keeping the game close then grinding it out down the stretch. As far as playing in the mud and stuff like that, I think it's to our favor to play like that. That's who we are."
Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger stressed throughout the preseason that it was vital the Grizzlies get off to a fast start to avoid playing catchup as they did for the majority of last season. "I am extremely excited about the start to our season," Joerger said. "This is a team (the Pelicans) we have struggled with going 1-3 against them last year. They're in our division - aka SEC West football - where we went 4-12 last year, and so to get this win, and get it the way we got it which is the way that we play - we got them in the mud. We got our hands and bodies on people. We were very physical."
The Grizzlies are not a team littered with a bunch of flashy stars; instead, they play an unattractive yet very effective brand of basketball that works for them and is difficult for opposing teams to adjust to. It remains to be seen how far that style of play can carry this team in the playoffs, but we haven't even seen this team at their best yet.
Mike Conley, who seemed to be getting around just fine in the locker room despite a minor ankle sprain, has yet to put together a complete game, and while Beno Udrih played well against the Pelicans, the second unit will benefit greatly from the return of the suspended Nick Calathes, who will initiate the offense, facilitate for others, and defend at a higher level than Beno.
Once the Grizzlies return to full health, their current run of success should only be magnified, but in the meantime, this Grizzlies team is focused on the Phoenix Suns and trying to bring their high-powered offense in the mud.