When I was young, my mom would often say, "you never do anything the easy way". That phrase could very well be applied to our very own Grizzlies. Just remember: we shouldn't be here right now.
Back in December, THE MACHINE TM determined that the Grizzlies had 0.2% chance to make the playoffs. The coaching staff and front office were under fire for the first half of the season as the Grizzlies struggled just to get back to .500 while the rest of the West sprinted away from us. Grizzlies fans were so disgusted that in a GBB poll taken after 40 games, 10% said nothing could salvage this disaster of a season for them.
The Grizzlies spent the second half of the season rebuilding Grit ‘n' Grind brick by brick. The previously amiable Dave Joerger developed a permanent scowl and signature circles under his eyes. His sound bites went from frank to Popovich-esque in brevity and terseness. Tony Allen started coming off the bench and immediately became the best defensive 6th man in the NBA. Marc Gasol started affecting opposing offense's strategies in the lane. Z-Bo, Marc and Mike took turns carrying the offense when another's sinew wearied. Through it all, we saw the steely determination return, along with it the cardiac wins, borne from the soul of Trick-or-Treat Tony, and we now know no lead is safe - either for the Grizzlies or the opponents. There were times it seemed over - both that the Grizzlies had made the playoffs and that they were eliminated.
Last night, let's be honest, the Grizzlies were disassembled. Everything the Thunder did all season long - rebounding, blocking shots, playing good team defense, Durant scoring - showed up all at once, same as it did in game 1. It was never close. The lead was 8 after 1, 15 after 2, 21 after 3, and 20 after a 4th quarter which contained a lot of garbage time. The Grizzlies missed some free throws, missed some shots, and most importantly, they gave up 49% shooting. If the Thunder shoot around 50%, the Grizzlies are going to lose and it is unlikely to be close.
More on Game 6
Snap Back to Reality: OKC Beats Memphis 104-84
The Thunder wanted this one more than the Grizzlies, and it showed early on. Rebounding, defense and poor offensive execution all led to another missed opportunity to finish the Thunder, and now the season is on the line Saturday night in OKC.
More on Game 6
Some of the Thunder's strong showing from the field was attributable to sluggish rotations and footwork by the Grizzlies' defense. An awful lot of it, though, was due to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook simply making shots - mainly jumpers - they'd been missing the four previous games. Durant stepped on the court dialed in, whether it be due to internal fire, the Mr. Unreliable article, Scott Brooks suddenly becoming a world-beating motivator, or a witch doctor breaking the hex Tony Allen had placed on the presumptive MVP. Durant was Durant and everything flowed from him.
The Grizzlies were bested at everything but assists and turnovers in the game. So what do you take away from the game? I'll tell you - absolutely nothing. Dave Joerger needs to adjust his defense for Caron Butler's presence in the starting lineup, but otherwise, the Grizzlies just need to forget this game and move on.
Keep this in mind: the Grizzlies have proven to be at their best when the odds are against them. The longer the odds the better. National media members virtually guaranteed a sweep, but both Thunder and Grizzlies fans knew better. They knew this would be a dogfight. The odds got longer with Calathes' suspension, and the Grizzlies have been heavy underdogs in every game in the series according to Vegas. Every time the Grizzlies have built a large lead, it was clear they didn't know how to act. It's like when an inside fighter tries to dance around the ring - he doesn't know how to move, how to gauge his punches. No, what the Griz know is how to duke it out in close, when it counts, and find a way to win.
So the series heads back to Oklahoma City tied 3-3 after four epic overtime games and 2 Thunder blowouts.The Grizzlies are now 2-1 on the road and 1-2 at home in the series. They'll likely be heavier underdogs than ever, on the road, against the best scorer on the planet, in a raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The series thus far has been a cauliflower-eared old streetfighter taking on a flashy young boxer and rounds 1-6 have come out even. The Thunder have overwhelmed twice with their athleticism and pulled out one of the in-close rounds. The Grizzlies have parlayed rugged defense and just enough timely plays to gut out three wins of their own. Sound familiar? It should, because that's exactly the kind of thing the Grizzlies have been doing for the past 4 months. This series just couldn't have any other ending. These Grizzlies don't do anything the easy way.