As the Grizzlies nursed a 4-point lead late into the overtime period I tried to remind myself to pause and appreciate the moment we were experiencing and to consider its place in the lore of Memphis playoff games. I’m not here to rank the numerous classics played between Memphis and Oklahoma City – Chris Herrington already did a great job of that at the Commercial Appeal – but rather just to remind you to find a moment during a timeout or while waiting for the next free throw to stop and soak it up.
The game we watched Monday will live forever. It had all the makings of an instant classic. Underdog road-team takes an early lead, but gives it back as the teams trade buckets down the stretch. The Grizzlies seemed to have squeezed out a win, going up 5 with 18.1 second left, when the (soon-to-be) MVP hits the most incredible falling-out-of-bounds-3-pointer-and-1 you’ll ever see. There was so much TA and almost all of it good. There was more Beno than has existed at any point during this season. Conley was amazingly steady and clutch, despite a late turnover and missed FT. ZBo couldn’t get positioning all night and yet somehow found a way to go big in the 4th quarter and OT.
These moments and experiences are exactly what a group of visionary Memphians dreamt of when they set out to bring an NBA franchise to Memphis. In these moments, there are tens of thousands of Memphians spread throughout Shelby County, the state of Tennessee and the country all sharing a moment of civic pride for their beloved – if flawed – hometown. In living rooms and restaurants throughout the city we all sat with fingers crossed and breath held (or in my case shirts pulled halfway over my face), waiting to see if the Grizzlies had enough in the tank to pull out a victory and make sure we lived on the right side of an instant classic for a change. They did.
And it is a damned good thing we won, because I would have had a hard time stopping to acknowledge the great basketball game we’d witnessed otherwise. But that is exactly what it was. It was an incredible basketball game filled with fascinating characters about whom we all feel strongly (some good, some bad) that came down to the very end, and was won by the good guys in Beale Street Blue.
Years ago, I remember watching an intro video before a Boston Celtics game and marveling at how all of the highlights were significant playoff moments. At the time, the Grizzlies highlight reel was mostly regular season dunks by Stromile Swift. More than anything, these last 4 years have changed the Memphis highlight reel. Now we have Battier’s shot in Game 1 of the Spurs series in 2011, ZBo’s heroics in Game 6 of the Spurs series in 2011, ZBo bullying Griffin in the 2012 & 2013 playoffs, Grizz dropping the “Finish Them” banner in Game 6 against the Clippers, TA with a clutch blocked 3 on Durant in Monday’s game. The list goes on and on and I’ve left out dozens.
This time of year brings out the best in Memphis. Make sure you find a moment between plays to stop and appreciate what you’re witnessing.
See you Thursday, #GrizzNation!