Grizz Making Push As Serious Contender

.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The quietest team in the NBA just keeps on taking care of business.

Quick, without looking at the standings, which team holds down the the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference? Hint: It’s not the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Memphis Grizzlies (44-19), playing with stunning synergy and grit since swapping Rudy Gay for Tayshaun Prince, are 15-3 since Prince’s Feb. 1 debut, are coming off a stifling victory on the Clippers’ home court and bring  a six-game win streak — on the heels of an eight-game streak — into tonight’s game of contrasting styles against the Denver Nuggets (9 p.m. ET, League Pass), the West’s fastest and hottest team with a 10-game win streak.

While many of us on this side of the aisle were against a mid-season breakup of the Grizz roster and said so, coach Lionel Hollins also wasn’t a big fan of trading Gay and messing with a pretty good formula for what was seen at the time as a cost-cutting maneuver by a new ownership group.

Hollins said so, too, with this now-famous quote: “When you have champagne taste, you can’t be on a beer budget. It’s a small market and I understand the economics of being in a small market.”

Only now Hollins has put the pieces together and the quiet, small-market Grizzlies appear as if on the cusp of big things.

While Gay was hailed as the Grizzlies best scorer and a go-to-guy in the clutch despite his low shooting percentages, Memphis is now — as revealed by a vast sea of analytical data available for your perusal at NBA.com/Stats — a more efficient offensive team that’s assisting on more baskets. The Grizz are utilizing their two talented big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, even more and benefiting from Prince’s team-oriented, pass-first mentality.

Here’s some non-analytic stats that drive the point home just the same. In the last 15 games, Memphis’ lone defeat was a tightly contested, 98-91 loss at Miami. In going 14-1 during that stretch of games, the Grizzlies have averaged 96.4 points a game, hardly a juggernaut, but more than three points a game better than before the trade.

They’ve scored 100 points or more in six of the 15 games. Before the trade it took 30 games to record their last six of scoring 100 or more. Add the scoring boost to a defense that continues to lead the league in yielding the fewest points (89.3) and ranks seventh in the field-goal percentage (43.9) and the Grizz have boosted their stock, post-trade, as a serious Western Conference contender.

As Memphis heads to Mile High tonight where the Nuggets are a devastating 28-3, it brings what could be deemed as a stronger, stingier team mentality in the form a 19-11 road record. The Grizz are 7-2 since the Prince trade, a record that includes triumphs at Brooklyn and, most recently, consecutive wins against Portland and an impressive strangling of Lob City.

The Grizzlies are three games behind No. 2 Oklahoma City (two games back in the loss column) with one game remaining against the Thunder in Memphis next Wednesday. As for the Grizzlies’ chances of holding down the No. 3 spot or even moving up, their toughest stretch to end the season just might be their road back-to-back tonight at Denver followed by a desperate Utah team on Saturday.

After that, they face the challenge of 10 road games among their final 17, but they play just eight current playoff teams.

So how good are the Grizzlies? That will be determined in the playoffs. But the fact is that they are a more efficient offensive team, one that’s in sync as a unit and one that is rolling since making the trade that few wanted to see happen.

11 Comments

  1. iSHAQ or SHAQTOLOGY says:

    DELONTE WEST to KNICKS……

    MICHAEL REDD to LAKERS…..

    RENALDO BALKMAN to BOBCATS…..

    ALLEN IVERSON to CELTICS……

  2. iSHAQ or SHAQTOLOGY says:

    GILBERT ARENAS to DALLAS!!! yes!!!

  3. sports fan says:

    Both Memphis and Denver are going to do some real damage in the playoffs.

  4. qimba says:

    OK folks,

    the game is over and the best team won. Denver won season series between the two 3-1. The Grizzlees got hot at the end of the 1st half, and led after 3 periods by 8, I think. Anyway, Denver’s depth took over in the 4th and they won going away, outscoring the big bad bears badly (good if you’re a fan of Denver) in a 4th quarter come back that now has them 1/2 a game out of 3rd behind both Memphis and LA.

    The fact that no one is talking about it is striking. The only thing that seems to matter in these basketball sports “journalists” minds is what is limited to the two left coasts in this country…(;~))

  5. googergieger says:

    The mere fact Joey Crawford still has a job as an NBA official seems like the NBA is trying to troll the conspiracy theorists out there. Clearly calls the game with an agenda every game and that agenda is, “Pay attention to me world!”.

  6. googergieger says:

    Refs let their bigs and Allen get away with murder. Nothing but shoving in the back, elbows, pulling, and a whole bunch of other dirty stuff with no foul trouble to show for it. Wouldn’t be so bad if the other teams weren’t called for the same type of stuff.

  7. Patty says:

    RANDOLPH IS A GREAT PLAYER & THEY HAVE GOOD PIECES AROUND THEM. NO ONE EVER GIVES CREDIT TO THE COACH OF THE GRIZZLIES. COACH HOLLINS IS AN OUTSTANDING COACH THAT SHOULD RECEIVE PRAISE FOR HIS PERFORMANCE.

  8. qimba says:

    Since I’m an uber Denver pro-sports guy (@ 6i). I’ll be impressed if they beat the full court attack to the paint that makes basketball interesting. This will be a nice contrast in styles to be sure. If Memphis can dispatch the Nugs tonight and in the playoffs, I would love to see them go all the way. But Memphis, as a city, really hasn’t paid its dues yet. They need to sing the blues a little longer—maybe they could move down to Natchez or something _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcyMs5fb4Go–go to 2:15 through 2:50 on the song. (;~))

    Anyway, the Nuggets(/Rockets) have been @ the same quest for NBA gold since 1967. Since I was in 9th grade…I been singin’ the blues as well as the rest of the city for a way long time…

  9. Krazy says:

    Memphis stand up!!!!

  10. slider821 says:

    pretty crazy that this Grizz team is doing better now than they were with Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo on the roster. Front office knows what they’re doing.

  11. Chris says:

    I’m shocked.. I mean I wouldn’t call myself a fan but I’ve had my eye on the Grizzlies this season, Gay was underrated, and Marc Gasol is turning out to be better than his brother. When Gay got traded for an aging Vet and a youngster that has yet to live up to any potential seen in him I was all “Lawl, grizzlies probably won’t be too interesting anymore.” Guess I was wrong like many