“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.”
J. Sidlow Baxter
Tonight’s game is going to make a difference.
The Grizzlies face an opportunity – and an obstacle – tonight when they tip off at FedEx Forum in Game 3 of their Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers and win or lose the series is going to change tonight.
The obstacle is not insignificant. The Clippers have the best point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul. Mike Conley is good and improving daily but he isn’t the best right now. Sorry but that is the truth.
The Clippers have a budding superstar Power Forward in Blake Griffin. Zach Randolph was only 27 when the Grizzlies acquired him from LA after drafting Griffin. That’s the prime of a player’s career. Randolph more than held his ground for the first few years but now, a year removed from his knee injury, Randolph has clearly been surpassed by the Clippers forward.
Tayshaun Prince has been struggling with his shot, hitting just 20% of his FG attempts in the series. At 33, Prince is old for an NBA perimeter player playing extended minutes. He plays extended minutes because Quincy Pondexter and Austin Daye have not appeared capable of contributing at all so far. The bench in general disappeared in Game 2 playing a mere 44 minutes.
Yes the obstacle is formidable.
But there is opportunity here as well.
First, there is an opportunity being back at home to snatch the momentum of the series back from the Clippers. The Grizzlies were one of the best home teams in the NBA this season finishing with a franchise best 32 wins against only 9 defeats. That’s the same home record that the Clippers posted and they used that home court advantage to grab a 2-0 lead.
Mike Conley may not be as good as Paul but he is catching up and the momentum is working in Conley, not Paul’s favor. Mike is younger, faster and a better perimeter shooter. The fact that he struggled in LA with his 3 point shot doesn’t change the fact that when he does find that shot Paul will struggle to stop it and prevent his drives to the basket. Making Paul work harder on defense is the best way to slow him down on offense.
Marc Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, hasn’t been as aggressive as possible on offense in the series. Marc is such a phenomenal passer it is difficult to criticize him for passing but the reality is Gasol has skills that the Clippers can’t stop. If he becomes more aggressive attacking the Clippers the team will be more effective offensively.
Zach Randolph was the victim of some questionable foul calls in LA. Now he has the home court advantage and hopefully the calls with it that go with being a 2 time NBA All-Star. Randolph’s foul trouble in both games limited his ability to wear down the Clippers front line as well. Griffin will find it more difficult to attack on offense after slugging it out on defense for 35 minutes against Randolph.
This brings us to attitude being the determining factor in the series. I wrote about before the series began. Memphis has to develop the conviction and confidence that they can beat the Clippers in Memphis just like they have beaten San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Denver and Miami this season. They have to believe the Clippers are no better than the teams the Grizzlies have already defeated and recently defeated in the case of OKC and San Antonio.
“It shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder – or impossible – to lose.”
People wonder why the Grizzlies are struggling on a team that was supposed to be built for the playoffs. It’s a fair question but the answer is simple. They are struggling because every great accomplishment requires struggle to make it great.
The Grizzlies must remember they have lost nothing yet. They didn’t steal a win in LA but that isn’t the same as losing a home game like they did in last year’s playoffs. Right now the team has missed two opportunities to get ahead. That isn’t the same as falling behind. They could have as many as two more opportunities and the Clippers, not the Grizzlies, will be facing the pressure if the series goes back to LA for game 7.
What needs to change is the momentum of the series. Everyone knows that the Grizzlies have never won a series where they trailed 2-0. What some may not know is the Grizzlies have never won a game in which they trailed in a series 2-0. The first step to forcing more games is to win a game, any game but preferable tonight’s game. A win tonight takes some of the pressure off of the Grizzlies backs.
This team was supposed to be built for the playoffs. So far we have seen the good and the bad from the Grizzlies. We’ve only seen the good from the Clippers. A win tonight, bringing out the bad of the Clippers, can shift perpective of the series entirely.
“Our thoughts about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we can be.”
The Grizzlies need to believe in themselves. They need to believe when they take a shot it will go in the basket. They need to believe they can make stops when needed. They need to believe they can win this game. Effort without confidence is losing effort.
Look at the greats in the game. They don’t just hope they will make the play. They know they will make the play. Memphis needs to believe that way too. Not just the team but the entire city needs to believe the Grizzlies can overcome this deficit and still win the series.
I know it is hard but we’ve already stated that everything great that is accomplished is hard. To be great you have to overcome the hardship and have the faith in your vision that it can be attained. To become great you first have to believe greatness is in you. That belief brings the confidence to achieve when others fail and to overcome when the odds seem to suggest you don’t have a chance.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Let me close with this thought. The Grizzlies will not win the series tonight. The Grizzlies will not lose the series tonight. However, the Grizzlies can dramatically alter the likelihood of both outcomes by the way they play tonight.
And tonight is all they have any control over. No matter what happens tonight the Grizzlies can’t change last Monday’s outcome. No matter what happens tonight Saturday’s game will still be played. The Grizzlies have no control over either the past or the future.
The Grizzlies do have control of tonight. Tonight the Grizzlies can impose their will and change the way people look at the series. Tonight the Grizzlies can bring attention nationally and locally to focus on this team. Tonight they control their destiny.
And Memphis, you have a choice here too. Do you want to be one of the thousands at the game cheering for the boys wearing Beale Street Blue or do you want to sit at home and miss out on the beginning of something great. The Grizzlies have told me there are some club level seats and terrace level seats available for tonight’s game.
I was shocked to hear this. How can the first playoff game not be sold out? Is the city so convinced the team won’t win that they don’t want to show up to see them lose? Are they so convinced of the team’s inferiority that they are unwilling to pay $10 to be there in person?
When I talk about attitude I am not just talking about the players on the court. Home court advantage comes from the attitude of the fans affecting the players on the court. The sensation of 18,000 people screaming for (and against) you does affect the players.
Tonight the city has the opportunity to make a difference not just on the court but in the perception of the nation about the city and the team. I hope the city will not allow that impression to be that the fans don’t support the team for the most important game of the season.
Get off your butts Memphis and make a difference!