The Memphis Grizzlies' playoff run produced many delightful memories for fans of the "grit 'n' grind." Their best playoff run ever aroused the senses of the Grizz faithful, which came to appreciate the frontcourt dominance, stellar defense and Mike Conley's point guard play.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph reminded roundball aficionados how much they can dominate the inside. With 12 double-doubles and 12 20-point games combined, they compiled numerous nights to remember.
Tony Allen was dominant as usual on defense, but his scoring assisted Memphis' dismembering of the Thunder as well.
Follow along to see the moments from the Grizzlies' first deep playoff run that their fans will cherish for a long time.
The agony of defeat was most explicitly pronounced by Marc Gasol's actions after the horn sounding the end of the Grizzlies' playoff run. Gasol walked to the scorer's table, plopped himself on its surface and pounded his fist down.
Moments later, he still sat there shocked at the result. His team had fought its way through a series that ended in complete futility. He himself could do little about it, as he shot 40.4 percent from the field.
Memphis had gone from being the try-hard team that wasn't quite good enough to go deep in the playoffs to the menacing squad that suffocated Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Four cruel, unrewarding games silenced that high, as Gasol felt himself falling to Earth after the San Antonio Spurs swept past his Grizzlies.
The saving grace of Game 4 against the Spurs—and the series in general—was Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter marshaled all of his scoring power to keep alive the possibility of the Grizzlies avoiding the sweep.
He scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, hitting 3-of-6 from three-point range. His team-leading performance came as only two other Grizz players shot better than 40 percent from the field.
Late in the third quarter, the third-year pro hit a three and a layup to bring the Grizzlies within six. With Tony Parker and Tim Duncan preparing to pack Memphis away, he hit a layup and two free throws to bring the team to within six in the last few minutes.
The former New Orleans Hornet was the lone bright spot for the Grizzlies throughout the series. He averaged 15.3 points per game while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. No other Memphis rotation player shot 45 percent for the series.
Aside from the attempted heroics of this role player, the Grizz came up completely empty offensively against San Antonio.
Zach Randolph didn't waste time trying to put the Oklahoma City Thunder away in Game 5. He pulled down 14 rebounds and put up 28 points, including 17 points in the first half to push Memphis to a 14-point lead heading into the locker room.
Randolph pounded away inside five feet, hitting 5-of-9 from that range.
He reminded fans how difficult the Grizzlies are to beat when he's dominant, as they won all four games in which he had a 20-point, 10-rebound performance.
As the 31-year-old bowled Memphis ahead to their first ever Western Conference Finals, he left many with visions of the potency of what the TNT studio crew called his "old-man game."
In Game 6 of Memphis' opening-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers, Tony Allen dazzled on the side of the ball on which he's considered a liability.
The man whose transition game Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix compared to "a teenager behind the wheel of a Ferrari" broke out to help the Grizz finish the Clips.
Allen scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and 9-of-11 from the line to go with six assists. Those figures tied season highs in scoring and assists for the All-Defensive First-Teamer, who had his customary four steals.
When the Clippers threatened to come back early in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to nine, he followed a Jerryd Bayless technical free throw with two of his own and assisted a Mike Conley three-pointer to help stretch the lead to 13.
Teams may be looking strictly at Allen's defense when they glance at him on the free-agent market, but this Game 6 performance stood as an example of the occasional night when he has some redeeming value on the other end.
Not often does a borderline elite point guard roll over the best player at the position. That's what Mike Conley did to Chris Paul in the first round.
Paul had a fine series, but Conley took his game out of the planet. Paul had 22.8 points and 6.3 assists per game, while Conley put up 17.3 points and 8.5 assists per game. Paul had nice passing figures—a 33 percent assist rate and 3.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio—but Conley's were outstanding—a 38.9 percent assist rate and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5-to-1.
Both averaged fewer than two turnovers per game, but Conley never had more than three turnovers in a game, while Paul committed five in Game 3 alone.
The floor general wearing the three shades of blue controlled the flow of the game and handled the ball better than his opponent. Conley also made more trips to the free-throw line, taking 8.8 per game to Paul's 6.2.
Typically, CP3 would outplay Conley. But the Ohio State product upended his foe to help rally the Grizzlies.
Responding to Kevin Durant's dominance at the end of Game 1, Mike Conley decided to own the action in the second match of the series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Conley came up an assist shy of a triple-double as he led the Grizzlies to even their opponent at a game apiece. He posted 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists while hitting half of his 22 shots.
The miniature maestro stole the show in the fourth quarter, rattling off 13 points and seven rebounds. He hit a three with 1:58 left to give Memphis the lead and hit 18-footer with 1:04 left to give them a four-point edge.
His last game of at least 43 percent shooting gave Memphis much of the fuel it needed to start its sprint past one of the best shooting teams in the league.
Marc Gasol electrified the "Grindhouse" with a glorious all-around performance to power the Grizzlies to an overtime win in Game 4. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks.
Gasol blocked three of those shots in the fourth quarter. He swatted away a shot by Serge Ibaka with 3:20 left and then one by Kevin Durant in the next Oklahoma City Thunder possession.
After splitting a pair of free throws in the waning seconds of regulation that could have bent the Thunder's ability to tie the game, the Spaniard effortlessly knocked down a 15-footer to give Memphis a three-point lead with 22.8 seconds left in overtime.
As he dropped buckets inside and out and shut down Oklahoma City shooters, Gasol reminded fans why he's the best center in the game.
Free throws represented one of the themes of the playoffs for the Grizzlies. They often found their way to the line in the first round, but didn't land at the charity stripe much thereafter.
After Marc Gasol missed a golden opportunity in Game 4 at the line, Tony Allen capitalized on his at the end of Game 5.
Allen, one of the best rebounding shooting guards in the NBA, pounced on a Kevin Durant miss and drew a foul from Reggie Jackson. The leader of the "grit 'n' grind" then drained two free throws to give the Grizz a four-point advantage with 3.3 seconds left.
He's hoisted 165 free-throw attempts in his playoff career, but never was one more significant than that which sealed Memphis' first ever trip to the Western Conference Finals.