Grizzlies #TBT: The Season That Hurt So Good

In the National Basketball League, deep playoff runs are considered especially rare. In Memphis, Tennessee, the dedicated team of professionals who lead these incredible runs are members of an elite squad known as the Memphis Grizzlies. This is their story.

Cheesy or not, be honest; that opening was pretty clever. The Grizzlies … Law & Order … same thing, right?

Much like Law & Order: SVU, the Grizzlies do actually have a dedicated team of professionals. Except instead of solving crime, they solve opposing offenses.

The 2012-13 season may be the best example of this to date. I get it, for some of you, it’s a sore subject. It may hurt a little. One thing I promise you, though, is that it actually wasn’t as bad as you think.

We beat the Clippers and Thunder for goodness sakes, what more could you want? Oh, right. I guess a championship would have been nice, but I digress.

A Walk Down Memory Lane:

Oh what a year it was. They may have had a terrible offense, but man that defense was good. Whenever you have a team only giving up a league leading 89.3 PPG,  it doesn’t really matter that you only score 93.4.

The starting five this year consisted of arguably the best 5 players, by position, to ever play for Memphis.

PG: Mike Conley (6.1 APG)

SG: Tony Allen (1.5 SPG)

SF: Rudy Gay (17.2 PPG)

PF: Zach Randolph (11.2 RPG)

C: Marc Gasol (1.7 BPG)

Rudy Gay was actually traded mid season, though. In the three-team deal, Memphis ended up swapping Gay and Hamed Haddadi (editor’s note: Haddadi was the real star the Grizzlies lost) for Austin Daye, Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis. Prince went on to be a starter for the Grizz, playing 31.7 minutes per game and bringing solid defense and leadership to a fairly young team.

A combination of prime Tony Allen mixed with Marc Gasol’s defensive player of the year honors made the “Grit ‘N’ Grind” defense even more popular than ever before. Not only that, The Grindhouse became a place of legend – feared by all those who dare travel there. The Grizzlies only lost nine times at home, while winning 32.

All of this ended up leading to a 56-26 record and the Grizz heading in to the playoffs as the fifth seed.

This is where it gets really fun.

The Road To The Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Clippers

It all started with their playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. At the time, this seemed like an incredibly tough team to matchup with in the playoffs. Their loaded roster included Chris Paul, Blake Griffen and DeAndre Jordan. One thing we have come to realize over the years, though, is that this would actually go on to become a very underwhelming squad in the playoffs.

After going down 0-2 on the road to start the series, the Grizzlies went on to win the next four in a row. Outscoring the Clippers by a combined 56 points in those games- including a convincing 103-93 victory on the road in game five.

Next Stop: The Oklahoma City Thunder

This is the series that I think may have shocked the basketball world a little bit (but not Grizzlies fans, of course).

The Thunder had an incredibly well rounded team. They ranked 3rd in points  (105.7) and 9th in defense (96.5). This added up to them winning 60 games and securing the #1 seed in the Western conference.

The one thing that made this series so surprising was not only the Grizz winning, but that it only lasted five games. After losing the first game by 2, Memphis came back to win the next four. Granted, not by much, but a win is a win wether it’s by two or by 20.

The biggest factor that may have helped Memphis, though, was that OKC was without Russell Westbrook. After going down with injury in their first playoff round, Westbrook missed all of the series against Memphis. Even so, the talent that OKC still had on that roster with Durant, Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and elite defender in Thabo Sefolosha was impressive.

This made Memphis’ series win still just as impressive.

The Final Stop: San Antonio Spurs

Let’s face it, if there is one team that seems to have the upper hand on the Grizz every year, it’s the San Antonio Spurs. This season was no different. Lead by arguably the most successful “Big 3” of all-time (Duncan, Parker, Ginobli), the Spurs made quick work of the Grizzlies.

Going in to this series, coming off of two very impressive and unexpected series wins, the Grizz really thought they had a chance. This was a squad they were familiar with. The Grizz were healthy, feeling like world beaters.

Then game 1 happened…

San Antonio went up 31-14 in the first quarter and never looked back. They went on to win that game 105-83.

The next two games did end up going in to overtime, but that didn’t mean the score ended up being all that close. The Grizz lost games 2 and 3, 89-93 and 93-104.

San Antonio sealed the sweep in game 4 with a 93-86 victory. They actually went on to lose to the Miami Heat in 7 games in the NBA Finals, so it wasn’t all bad. If we can’t win, neither can the Spurs. It’s only fair.

A Year To Remember:

The one thing that gets remembered most about this season is the abrupt ending. Nobody likes to get swept.

If you look at it like this, though, it’s not that bad:

Close your eyes. Picture a fresh NBA season. No games have been played and the possibilities are endless.

Now I tell you that season your team would win 50+ games, make the Western conference finals and have the Defensive Player Of The Year.

You’re happy, right? You’d probably tell me I was crazy and that those types of things don’t happen to the Grizzlies.

The thing is, every team in the NBA would kill for that.

Except for the part where they get swept.

My point is, instead of remembering it for the let down, let’s remember it for what it was:

2012-13: The Season the Grizzlies (almost) Went to the NBA Finals.

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