Grizzlies and Hornets Scrapping for Success: The Story of the NBA Playoffs

John Frascella@@RedSoxAuthorCorrespondent IApril 26, 2011

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 23: Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots the ball while defended by Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs  in Game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 23, 2011 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Seemingly every night, I hear "expert" analysts saying, "You need multiple stars to compete in the NBA Playoffs."

But if we've learned anything from the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets this postseason, it's that you don't need more than one star to compete with the premier teams in basketball.

Sometimes all you need is a little scrappiness. A little fight. The energy and passion to outlast your opponent—even if they are more talented.

The San Antonio Spurs won 61 games during the regular season and consistently boasted the highest winning percentage in the extremely tough Western Conference.

They feature three proven, decorated stars in SG Manu Ginobili, PG Tony Parker and PF Tim Duncan (though the latter has clearly faded). They also have one of the top two coaches in the NBA in Gregg Popovich.

The Grizzlies have one superstar...his name is Rudy Gay. He's out for the season with a dislocated shoulder.

And yet, here we are, with the mighty Spurs facing elimination in Game 5. So how did we get here?

The Grizzlies have outworked the Spurs. They've outrun them in transition. They've overpowered them in the paint. They've showcased the passion that seems to have disappeared from the hearts of the Spurs' battle-tested leaders.

Everyone is contributing for Memphis, from top dog Zach Randolph to his back up, versatile PF Darrell Arthur. Tony Allen and Shane Battier have been relentlessly tenacious defensively. Point guard Mike Conley has controlled the tempo and C Marc Gasol has been strong on the interior.

The Spurs, conversely, have played sloppily and listlessly. They've made the mistakes you would expect to see from the less experienced Grizzlies.

In the other surprising series, superstar Chris Paul has guided a collection of role players into the middle of a war with the defending NBA champion Lakers.

Again, what do I see?

Scrappiness. Passion. Hustle. I see a complacent champion competing against a hungry group of upstarts.

I see the best player in the series (to this point) isn't No. 24 of the Lakers. I see Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza going punch-for-punch with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest.

I see Jarrett Jack stepping up in the final minute of Game 4 when he couldn't buy a bucket for the previous 47 minutes.

But I guess the question is—do I see an upset?

Unfortunately for we fans of the underdog, I think the remainder of this series will come down to homecourt advantage. I expect the Lakers to take Game 5 in Los Angeles, the Hornets to take Game 6 in New Orleans and the Lakers to come away with it in Game 7.

However, I don't expect the same fate for the top-seeded Spurs.

Unless they can scrap their way back into the series.

 

John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston's popular GM Theo Epstein. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.