Home » Blog » Grizzlies have turned Grit ‘N’ Grind into a top championship contender

Grizzlies have turned Grit ‘N’ Grind into a top championship contender

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the better teams in the Western Conference the past few seasons, with four consecutive playoff berths to their name. But as good as the Grizzlies have been, they weren’t really considered a legitimate title contender. Memphis has never finished better than fourth in the West, and although they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13, they were swept away by the San Antonio Spurs.

But things may be different this season. The Grit ‘N’ Grind Grizzlies have been known for their defense, but a step forward on the offensive end has them reaching new heights.

Thanks to a wild 117-116 triple-overtime victory in San Antonio, Memphis has won six games in a row and is currently 21-4, which is good for second in the entire NBA behind only the Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies beat those Warriors earlier this week, ending Golden State’s 16-game winning streak.

Memphis has gone over 100 points in all six victories, although some overtime periods have helped the cause. Even so, the Grizzlies have put up 109.0 points per 100 possessions during the winning streak, per NBA.com, an offensive rating that would rank near the top of the NBA. Memphis has a 106.6 offensive rating for the season, which is eighth in the league.

A big reason for the offensive improvement is due to the strides made by early-season MVP candidate Marc Gasol. The 29-year-old has always been regarded as one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and while his offense has been stellar, it’s his passing that has gotten the accolades.

This season, Gasol has turned himself into more of a scorer, although his precision passing is still there. The big man is averaging 19.8 points on the year, which would blow away is previous career-high of 14.6 points. He’s taking more shots and getting to the line more than ever, but despite the uptick in usage, his offensive efficiency is the best it has been since 2010-11. Not to mention he’s still dishing out 3.7 assists per game, which is second-best among centers behind only Joakim Noah.

The Gasol/Zach Randolph duo continues to be one of the best frontcourt duos in the NBA, but another reason for the Grizzlies’ rise to elite status is point guard Mike Conley. The 27-year-old is having a career season, and he has been of the best clutch players in the entire league. Conley has made 20 field goals in “clutch” situations this year, which is defined as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime when the scoring margin is five points or less, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Those 20 made clutch field goals are tied for second-most in the league, and he’s shooting 48.8 percent overall and 54.5 percent from three in the clutch.

While the Grizzlies’ offense has taken a leap, there hasn’t been much of a decline on the defensive end. Memphis is one of five teams to boast a top 10 offense and defense, and that balance has them as a top title contender. Vegas currently has the Grizzlies fourth in the pecking order in the West with 10/1 odds to win the championship, according to Bovada. The Warriors, Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder all have better odds at the moment to win it all, although that could certainly change if Memphis keeps up its current pace.

  • 100%