It's incredible, really. In 2011, when the lowly No.8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies upset the No.1 seed San Antonio Spurs, everyone, and I mean literally everyone, said the great run that was Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili was over. Their time was up.
Since then they've been to three Western Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, and they've won an NBA championship. Duncan, who will turn 40 in April, is anchoring one of the NBA's best defenses and averaging just under a double-double per game. In years 14 and 15 for Ginobili and Parker, respectively, they continue to be very effective basketball players.
And just when you think they're in the final year or two of their reign of terror in the Western Conference, they go out and find Kawhi Leonard, who SI's Chris Mannix recently dubbed the heir-apparent to Kobe Bryant, and sign LaMarcus Aldridge, who still has 2-3 years of his prime left.
The Grizzlies have long been thought of as a team that tries to emulate what the Spurs have been able to accomplish, and why wouldn't they? Any NBA team would kill to have the 19-year run this team has enjoyed.
Thursday night's 103-83 loss to the Spurs is something that has become all too familiar for Grizz fans. Since defeating the Spurs in the 2011 playoffs, the Grizz are just 4-18 against San Antonio, including being swept in the 2013 Western Conference Finals.
It's to the point where I try not to make any overreactions or have any massive season-long takeaways from games with the Spurs. You just kind of have to throw up your hands and say that one particular team may just simply be a little bit better than you are. Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest NBA coaches off all time, and since 2011, it appears that he may have just figured out how to slow down the Grizzlies to the point where they just look downtrodden.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts from last night's games and the season thus far:
Schedule: The Grizzlies just completed their 20th game of the season. Head coach Dave Joerger said during the preseason something to the effect of that he would be happy or content with the Grizz going 14-11 during the team's first 25 games. If you took a look at the early season schedule, you understood why. It's been brutal.
But, there is a bright side: The Grizz have now played just under a quarter of their games, basically, this is the quarter of the season mark since they play 82 games, and if you look at it, the Grizz have played half of their games against the Cavaliers, Warriors and Spurs - arguably the NBA's three best teams, though, I'm not sure who would argue you on that.
The Grizzlies are 11-4 against the rest of the teams they've played so far, and thankfully Memphis won't see those three juggernauts again until the final 20 games of the season.
Tony Allen: It's well established that everyone in Memphis and most around the NBA love Tony Allen. He's different, and different works in Memphis. The antics, the quotes, the defense, the hustle: Memphians love it, and that's why this is not easy to write.
TA has not been good this season.
One thing I've always tried to do is incorporate both the eye-test and numbers into the way I evaluate a basketball player. This has sometimes been a challenge with Allen because his game is not always aesthetically pleasing. But when you checked the numbers, they always said that Allen was one of the most effective players the Grizzlies had every single season.
This season has been different, though.
Allen has still shown the flashes of being one of the NBA's best, if not the best, perimeter defenders, but he's also seemingly had more defensive lapses than in recent years.
If you do a quick number check, they back up what your eyes have been telling you: Allen has not been very good.
Throughout his career in Memphis, Allen has netted a +4 per 100 possessions. This season, he's a -6, a 10-point swing in the wrong direction.
His PER over six seasons with the Grizzlies has been a 15.1 - just a shade above a league average player of 15, which is good considering Allen does not provide much on the offensive end. This season, his PER is 11.2, which is a significant drop-off.
Of Grizz players who have appeared in at least 10 games, Allen's offensive rating of 94 is the worst on the team. To be fair, his defensive rating leads the team, but it's still his worst since coming to Memphis - albeit by only one point.
Allen is also currently suffering through career lows in field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
It is entirely possible that playing five games against the Spurs, Warriors and Cavs has completely nuked Allen's stats like it has with other Grizzlies. But it is also possible, and at least somewhat likely, that at 34, Allen is starting to slow down a little.
Joerger is in the unenviable position of having to figure out how to use Allen and, to a lesser degree, Zach Randolph, two stalwarts of the 'Grit and Grind' era, as they both enter the twilight of their respective careers.
Future Move(s): If Brandan Wright is going to be out for an extended period of time, the Grizz may be forced to unload one of their wings to net a big in return.
As much as JaMychal Green has won over the hearts of Grizz fans with his gritty style of play, the team cannot survive with carrying only three healthy bigs.
Since Wright went down, Marc Gasol has been forced to play 37.9 minutes per game - a number that I'm sure the Grizz would like to get down to somewhere between 30-32. He was playing 28.8 minutes per game before Wright's injury.
Even in the age of space-and-pace, a team, especially a team that plays like the Grizz do, simply cannot continue with just three bigs. It much too much of a strain on Gasol to log heavy minutes, and it forces JaMychal Green to play heavier minutes than he might be ready for at this point in his young career.
It would not be surprising to see the Grizz make a move for another true big while also un-cluttering the wing spot (and making room for Jordan Adams to get some minutes when he gets healthy, maybe?).
Also, if the Grizz are ever in need of a 6-7, 220-pound forward who's a career 37.2 percent three-point shooter, played seven NBA seasons and is shooting 40 percent from three for their D-League team this season, Cartier Martin is their guy.
It would not be shocking in the least to see Martin get a 10-day or two later on in the season (10-day contracts aren't available until after January 5). He's not a great player, but he does have the size to play 3 or some stretch-4. And he's got plenty of NBA experience. Plus he can shoot, and that's the magic word for Grizz fans, and rightfully so.