When the playoffs started, I pretty much figured that the Grizzlies had an equal chance of going to the finals or getting knocked out in the first round. Now, as they stand on the brink of elimination, my worst fears have been confirmed. The Grizzlies have often looked like the better team in the series, but foolish mistakes cost them Game 1 and Game 3. As for last night, well, that was the first game it looked like they were supposed to lose.
Yes, it was close, and had a few things gone the Grizzlies way, they could have pulled out the win. But when you look at how Chris Paul took over the game in OT, or how many crucial offensive rebounds Reggie Evans came up with – each one more soul-crushing than the last – it really just felt like the clippers were meant to win this game. The thing is, we went into this series knowing Chris Paul was the best player on either team, and that Blake Griffin was probably the second best. It didn’t horrify us to think the Clippers could win or two games solely on the strength of those players, because we figured the Grizzlies greater depth could carry them to a majority of wins. That hasn’t happened. The lack of shooting has killed them in the fourth quarter twice, and all throughout game 4, it became clear there was no one who the team could bank on to bury jumpers.
The Grizzlies could have been up 3-1, or at least tied 2-2, but they failed to clinch the games that were in their pocket. Now, they’re one loss away from being done. Do they have a comeback in them? Hard to say. There’s certainly been some anomalies in this series, the biggest being Marc Gasol not being close to the player he normally is. If Gasol gets going, and plays the way we expect him to, that could completely change the tone of the series. At the same time, it seems like Speights should be played more. Yes, he got into foul trouble last night, but he also picked up 9 points 6 boards in only 11 minutes. I can’t help but wonder if Lee Eric Smith’s suggestion of taking Gasol out of the starting lineup and going with a front court of Z-bo and Speights might help. This team just seems to be better when #5 is starting.
But even if none of that happens, the Grizzlies do have one major edge: Game 5 is in Memphis. The crowd at Fed ex forum should raucous beyond belief tomorrow night as the Grizzlies try to keep their season alive. If they can pull off a win on Wednesday, they not only keep the series going, but they would have some swagger going into a game 6 in L.A., in which the Clippers would be under extreme pressure, knowing it would be their last chance to clinch the series on their home court before a Game 7 in Memphis, which would feature an unbelievably brutal crowd. Looking at that, you can see at least a little bit of hope for Memphis. They have to start shooting better, and they have prevent Chris Paul from completely taking over, and those things won’t be easy, but the collective heart of this Grizzlies team is still beating. They aren’t dead until the clock reaches 0.0, not with the effort they’ve put into this season.
Grit and grind, baby.