The Memphis Grizzlies stood atop the Western Conference standings with an 8-2 record on Thanksgiving. That is very impressive for any team.
More impressive is that the Grizzlies reached this lofty mark playing the most difficult schedule in the league. The Grizzlies have played a .620 strength of schedule and have defeated all four of the top teams in the Eastern Conference already (Charlotte and Milwaukee are in fact among the top 4 Eastern Conference teams right now).
What’s more outrageous is the Grizzlies have yet to play a single team with a record below .500. The Grizzlies haven’t even played a team that wouldn’t be in the playoffs if they began today. Denver and Utah are both 6-6 coming off the Thanksgiving break and in the Western Conference playoff hunt at 7th and 8th place respectively.
Tonight’s game against the Lakers will be the first team the Grizzlies have played all season who are currently below .500 and out of the playoff pictures. The Lakers were supposed to be a super team with the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard but are half a game out of the playoff picture today.
This is great news because nearly one 8th of the way through the season the Grizzlies have yet to play a team considered a less than quality opponent. The Grizzlies still have two games remaining against the teams in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference and 3-4 games remaining against teams in the bottom half of the Western Conference. This start may be viewed as a fluke by some media critics but with such an easy schedule left to be played the opportunity is here for the Grizzlies to extend not surrender their lead.
Consider that after the Lakers tonight, the Grizzlies play the Cleveland Cavs (3-8 and just lost Kyrie Irving), the Toronto Raptors (3-9), The Detroit Pistons (2-10) the Phoenix Suns twice (5-7) and the San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies should be heavily favored to win all but two of those games and only the Spurs game in San Antonio would be considered an upset to win.
Now I know looking easy on paper is a far cry from being easy. These are NBA teams and they are all talented and any team can win against any opponent on any given night. I myself have pointed out that the Grizzlies don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.
It will take effort every night to win games for the Grizzlies. That was apparent in the Grizzlies loss to Denver. The 21 offensive rebounds surrendered means the Nuggets simply worked harder than the Grizzlies. When that happens the Grizzlies can be beaten by any number of teams. In fact, there aren’t many teams that can’t beat the Grizzlies simply by out-working them.
So while we all should be thankful to see the Grizzlies on top of the standings this far into the season, it will fall on the fans of the Grizzlies to push the team to give the effort needed to carry them on further in the season.