The Memphis Grizzlies have thrown the notion of Southern hospitality out the window by showing no remorse over being rude hosts during the NBA playoffs.
Heck, they’re even willing to be rude guests by stealing important games in Los Angeles and Oklahoma City so far in the playoffs.
The “Grit and Grind” slogan that was created by Tony Allen a couple of seasons ago used to be a bit of joke, but now it’s a style of play that defines the Grizzlies and has led to their home arena affectionately being called The Grindhouse.
Memphis fell behind 0-2 in the opening round against the Los Angeles Clippers only to hold the Clippers to under 105 points over the final four games of that series and under 94 points in three of those four games. Impressive stuff considering the Clippers averaged 101.1 points per game during the regular season. Throw into the mix that Los Angeles didn’t shoot better than 44 per cent from the floor in any of the final three games and it’s no wonder the Lakes ugly stepsisters bowed out in the first round.
Memphis hasn’t let up against the top seed in the Western Conference as they have wrestled a 2-1 lead in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City didn’t score less than 100 points in any of their six games against the Houston Rockets and averaged 105.7 points per game this season. Against the Grizzlies the Thunder have failed to score more than 93 points in any of the first three games. Granted, it’s a small sample size and tainted by loss of Westbrook, but the Thunder still managed to score at least 100 points in five games against Houston without Westbrook.
This kind of defensive intensity isn’t anything new as Memphis was the only NBA team to hold opponents under 90 points per game during the regular season. On top of that, they held their opponents to the third-lowest FG% while holding the second-best rebounding difference in NBA.
All season long Memphis has managed to force their opponents into attempting bad shots and then refused to give them second-chance opportunities. Two of the main reasons for the Grizzlies effectiveness on the defensive end of the court is due to the fact the current Defensive Player of Year is anchoring their defense (Marc Gasol) and Tony Allen, who has been All-NBA first team defence the past two seasons, has worked wonders pestering players on the perimeter. Then when you add Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tayshaun Prince to the mix, the Grizzlies have an experienced starting core who like to get gritty on the defensive end.
One of the many benefits Lionel Hollins has with this team is he can throw Prince, Allen or Quincy Pondexter at Kevin Durant and all three defenders have differing skill sets that make life miserable for Durant. Plus, without Westbrook on the court it’s become painfully clear that when you contain Durant, the rest of the players on the court aren’t able to step up for Oklahoma City. This was on display at the end of Game 2 when Durant missed his final three shots after Allen was switched over and handed the assignment of guarding the Thunder star. The only made field goal after the 5:20 mark of fourth quarter in Game 2 was a Derek Fisher three-pointer in the final seconds. The ancient point guard’s make didn’t impact the game much as the team sputtered to hitting just one of their final seven field goal attempts to finish the game.
Things didn’t go much better in Game 3 for Durant as he went 9-19 from the field and was held to his lowest scoring total (25 points) of the playoffs since Westbrook has been inactive. He also went an uncharacteristic 5-9 from the charity stripe after leading the NBA in free throw percentage this season (90 per cent).
Memphis is now 4-0 in the playoffs at home and they’ve shown no inclination towards playing the role of friendly hosts at The Grindhouse.
Southern hospitality be damned.