2011 NBA Playoffs: 10 Reasons Memphis Grizzlies Should Not Be Overlooked
The Memphis Grizzlies have quietly been one of the best teams in the NBA over the past several weeks as they continue to creep ever closer towards returning to the postseason.
While they will likely end up facing off against one of the top teams in the West if they do secure a playoff seed, I think too many people are sleeping on Memphis as a potential threat to those elites.
This slideshow features ten reasons why the Grizzlies could be only a few weeks away from making a huge move into the national spotlight.
Memphis Grizzlies Positive Point Differential
I found this stat a couple of months ago and found it to be one of the most interesting Memphis Grizzlies' stats I've seen in recent memory.
In the sixteen-season history of the Grizzlies franchise prior to this season, there have only been three times that Memphis has finished a season with a positive point differential.
Perhaps, coincidentally, those three seasons happen to be the same three seasons that the Grizzlies made their consecutive playoff appearances.
Guess what the Grizzlies' point differential this season has been while they have been battling for a postseason seed?
So if this stat holds true, the Grizzlies are in good shape moving into the final stages of the race for the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs Health/Age Questions
Despite their amazing start to the season, the San Antonio Spurs have had questions raised all year about the fact that their aging core could perhaps begin to wear down as the season progressed.
Well, those questions were answered recently when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were all forced to miss varying amounts of time in recent weeks.
While all three played last night in their loss to the Boston Celtics, it was the first game in the past couple weeks that all three played in the same game.
In fact, the Spurs have dropped five straight games (and counting) after their loss to Boston—the first time since April 1997 they've dropped six consecutive games.
If any of those three were to miss significant time in the postseason, I think the Spurs could potentially be upset by any of the teams currently in playoff contention.
Three-Game Lead Against Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have made a solid run coming out of the All-Star break, as they have gone 12-5 over their past seventeen games.
However, the Grizzlies currently hold a three-game lead over the Rockets for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.
Both teams have seven games remaining in the regular season with the Grizzlies playing three games against current playoff teams, and four games for the Rockets.
However, Houston does have one more home game remaining than Memphis.does, with five games remaining on their home floor (compared to only four games for the Grizzlies.)
Even if the Rockets were to go undefeated for the rest of the regular season, I'm still not convinced they can close the gap and catch Memphis. They would still need Memphis to lose at least three games.
New Orleans Hornets Missing David West
While the New Orleans Hornets are currently ahead of the Grizzlies by one game in the Western Conference standings, the loss of David West for the season due to a torn ACL could eventually catch up to them.
The Hornets currently hold the sixth seed in the West as they hold a tiebreaker over the Portland Trail Blazers, who have an identical 43-32 record.
Even though Chris Paul has been the biggest reason for the Hornets success this season, West is arguably the second best player on the team.
Carl Landry, West's replacement in the starting line-up, is definitely a solid power forward. However, the team now has very little depth in their front court.
If the Hornets aren't careful—and drop a few of their remaining seven—the Blazers and Grizzlies could both easily pass them in the standings.
26-19 Against Western Conference
While the Grizzlies' 26-19 record against teams in the West isn't the best conference record in the West, it is higher than those of the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Hornets, and Houston Rockets.
That leaves their record against Eastern Conference teams at 14-12.
Even though the Grizzlies' record versus teams in the East isn't that impressive, the positive you can take away from that is the fact that all seven of their remaining games are against teams in the Western Conference.
As long as the Grizzlies can finish at least 4-3 in those games—not unrealistic by any means—then the Rockets would need to win-out for the remainder of the season to have a chance to even tie their final records.
27-10 Record at Home (FedEx Forum)
Much like their record against teams in the West, the Grizzlies also have a better record at home this season than the Hornets, Blazers, and Rockets. With four of their seven remaining games coming on their home floor, Memphis has to feel pretty good about that.
Three of those four home games are also against teams currently out of the playoff picture.
While home games usually aren't back-to-back games in the postseason, Memphis is currently 17-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, including 14-0 at home. If nothing else, this shows the Grizzlies definitely don't get fatigued very easily and should be able to hold up fairly well during a postseason series.
12-7 Record Since Rudy Gay's Injury
When the Grizzlies lost their franchise player Rudy Gay with a separated shoulder, most in the media immediately wrote them out of the Western playoff picture.
However, Memphis has continued to play at a very high level despite Gay's absence. One of the main reasons is the variety of depth in their backcourt.
With the addition of Shane Battier and the teams' failed attempt to move O.J. Mayo, Memphis has definitely benefited from their trade-deadline activities.
2-2 Record Against San Antonio Spurs This Season
While the Spurs currently have the best record in the NBA at 57-18, they haven't been successful against Memphis as they normally have been in recent memory.
After all—two of San Antonio's 18 losses have come at the hands of Memphis this season.
The Grizzlies have won both of the previous two meetings between the teams—without Rudy Gay. What's more, one of the Spurs' two victories over the Grizzlies came in overtime on their home floor, meaning Memphis didn't go away quietly by any means in the loss.
With San Antonio already dealing with injuries to all three members of their "Big Three," the Spurs better hope they can remain healthy if they meet the Grizzlies in the opening round.
2-2 Record Against Los Angeles Lakers This Season
Just like their season series with the Spurs, Memphis has a 2-2 record against the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
While the Grizzlies would face San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs if the postseason started today, there remains a chance that Memphis could end up paired with the Lakers.
Los Angeles could possibly catch San Antonio for the top seed in the West, or in a more likely scenario, Memphis could pass New Orleans or Portland and finish in the seventh in the West.
The Lakers won the most recent match-up between the two teams 93-84. However, the teams haven't met since Rudy Gay went down with his shoulder injury and the Grizzlies acquired Shane Battier.
With Battier being one of the few players in the league who can occasionally keep Kobe Bryant in check, Memphis could potentially push a series against the Lakers to six or seven games and even has the potential to upset the two-time defending champs.
Zach Randolph: Double-Double Machine
Zach Randolph is in the midst of another All-Star caliber season this year, averaging 20 points and 12.4 rebounds on the season for the Grizzlies.
Since Rudy Gay went down with his shoulder injury, Randolph has put the Grizzlies on his back and has embraced the role of leading the team. Z-Bo has been the model of consistency this season for Memphis, dropping 51 double-doubles so far this season, trailing only Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love for those figures.
This season Randolph became the first player since 1970 to average at least 20 points and 13 rebounds and not be selected to the NBA All-Star game.
Although both of the Grizzlies' likely opponents for the first round have solid front courts, Randolph will definitely still cause trouble for the Spurs and Lakers, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
Randolph is also in the final year of his contract, meaning he will likely be playing at an even higher level knowing he could possibly earn more money as a free agent if he were able to lead Memphis to a historic first round upset and make a postseason run.
Even though it's unlikely Randolph will be able to carry the Grizzlies past the opening round of the postseason, I do expect him to be a huge factor in the team picking up the first victory or victories in franchise history.