HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Before the season began, we looked at the Western Conference and circled the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder as title contenders.
The Spurs are doing their part, even though they have some of the same defensive issues as they had last year and Manu Ginobili isn’t 100 percent. The Thunder are hanging around, though they’ve benefited from a lot of early games against bad Eastern Conference teams.
The Lakers’ issues have been discussed plenty enough, and we’ll just have to be patient to see what kind of team they are under Mike D’Antoni. For now, any changes in the Western Conference hierarchy are more about the teams that have put themselves in the contender discussion, rather than the teams that have taken themselves out of it (at least temporarily).
Wednesday’s ESPN double-header was perfect to showcase the emergence of both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers as they knocked off last season’s Finals teams in impressive fashion.
The Grizz are now 6-1 and rank in the top six in both offensive (fifth) and defensive (sixth) efficiency after Wednesday’s win over the Thunder. The defense isn’t a surprise, but the offensive improvement (they ranked 21st on that end last year) has been eye-opening … and reason to believe that Memphis needs to be included in any discussion about the best teams in the West.
Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story from Oklahoma City…
The Grizzlies led by 10 points with three minutes left and their offensive unison remained on display as they put away the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rudy Gay elevated for a jump shot at the foul line but passed off to Marc Gasol near the basket. Gasol quickly delivered a bounce pass to Zach Randolph, who calmly scored an uncontested layup.
After a slow start, the Grizzlies ran in overdrive and kept the Thunder off balance with their offensive execution before earning a 107-97 victory Wednesday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Gay’s 28 points helped the Griz (6-1) continue their franchise-best start by earning a sixth straight victory. Memphis’ only loss came on opening night at the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We’re a tough team,” Gay said. “They’re a tough team too. But we’re just as tough, if not tougher.”
Later on Wednesday, the Clippers took care of the champs with a big third quarter at Staples Center. They’re the best team in L.A. and have the second-best point differential in the league (behind only the Knicks).
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times believes that, in the irony of all ironies, the Clippers are now L.A.’s model franchise …
What an exciting night, and it’s all about basketball.
It’s been nothing but chaos, dysfunctional management and poor public relations around here the last few days, so what a relief to spend some time with the Clippers.
It never fails to amaze how some franchises just can’t get it right.
Here are the Lakers, going on their third coach in the time Vinny Del Negro has been here with the Clippers.
“I know that,” says Clippers owner Donald Sterling, stability, I guess, just something you take for granted.
“We have a good coach, good staff and I love the team,” says Sterling. “I feel wonderful about it.”
If only the Lakers could feel the same, Los Angeles so much better off when it has two quality franchises.
Highest point differential per 100 possessions, 2012-13
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions