Thursday, April 21, 2011
Behind The Scoreboard
It took a little middle-of-the-stream trading, repatriation and a lot of hard work but the Memphis Grizzlies made the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2006.
They joined the field of 16 as an eighth seed coming out of the Southwest Division of the Western Conference. Memphis’ record was 11 past .500 (45-34) when their cagy coach decided to let the team rest on its laurels in the eighth slot and rest key players in the last two games. They were 46-36 entering their first best of seven against the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio had the best record of any team (61-19) when they clinched their conference with a victory over the Utah Jazz. They and their coach, Greg Popovich, stated they were not taking the Griz for granted. Popovich alluded to the fact that Memphis had stepped up their defensive game during the last part of their season. And the Spurs had to engage the Griz on Sunday without the service of one of their stars, Manu Ginobli.
Other division winners in the West were Oklahoma City and the L.A. Lakers. L.A. has been playing less and less like champions lately and caused their coach, Phil Jackson, to call their play in a game last week as “lackluster at best.” The Lakers met the New Orleans Hornets in their first game on Sunday afternoon. There was no team under .500 gaining a playoff berth in the West. Other teams from the Western Conference were Denver, Portland and Dallas.
The Chicago Bulls clinched the conference in the East and were closely chasing the Spurs for the top record at 59-20. The Bulls had to vie with the Indiana Pacers for their first game on Saturday. The Bulls’ fans were throwing a tizzy because the Pacers led the entire game. Chicago won 104-99 but only had the lead for the last 40 seconds of the game. The Pacers’ record was below .500 and the only team in the sweet 16 which was not at least breaking even. Other teams from the East are Boston, New York Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta.
If you watched the Griz-Spurs contest on Sunday, then you saw a game. They met every challenge from a team which has been picked as the one to watch during the championship run.
Memphis was playing with a record which carried the stigma of a dozen playoff losses. They had never won a game in any postseason during the life of the franchise. Remember, repatriation was mentioned above? Well, the reclaimed former Grizzlie, Shane Battier, hit the distance shot, putting Memphis in position to win by three points.
The “best of seven” is a long road and rife with pitfalls, however, the NBA fan world has another team to take notice of, the surging Memphis Grizzlies.
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