By Hans Marin
They’re the epitome of Grit n’ Grind. And they have lived and died with that embodiment as they cruised to the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever in franchise history.
Tony Allen and Mike Conley being were also named as part of the NBA All-Defensive First team and NBA All-Defensive Second Team, respectively.
They used also their leechy defense to hold opposing teams to less than 100 points which they did 71 times during the regular season.
They also acquired Tayshaun Prince, a known defensive specialist in a three team deal giving up Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to further enhance their perimeter defense with Prince’s length.
Memphis built their signature style of playing which is known as the Grit n’ Grind.
Head coach Lionel Hollins said in a post-game interview after the Game 4 win in the Western Conference Semfinals matchup against the Thunder, that he didn’t know what grit n’ grind even means. But looking at what the Grizzlies did in that game, how they overcame a 17-point deficit in the 1st half slowly and deliberately, and how they turned up the pressure defensively with the help of Allen, Conley, Prince and Gasol that there’s not much that even the former scoring champion Kevin Durant can do. Durant was shutdown to just 2-of-13 in field goal attempts in the final 17 minutes of the game. We can really see what Grit n’ Grind really is.
Tony Allen, known as the heart and soul of the Memphis, said right after the game, “You know the motto, Grit n’ Grind.”
We can see in the playoffs how the Grizzlies scratched, clawed and Grit n’ Grinded their opponents especially on the defensive end. Grit n’ Grind can be described in one word, HEART.
Memphis has that heart to never back down from any challenge and to have persistence in the face of any obstacles.
Quit is just a word not in their vocabulary. These guys just have the determination to do whatever it takes to win even if odds are not in their favor. They will battle for loose balls, do all the hustle plays and do all the dirty work just to win. These guys just don’t know when and how to quit.
It ain’t over until it’s really over. It can be seen in the series with the Clippers, where they came back from an 0-2 series deficit to win the next four games and the series.
Also in the series against the Thunder, where they took four consecutive wins after losing Game one.
That is Grit n’ Grind basketball, Grizzlies style.
Memphis really surprised a lot of people by how deep they went with their playoff run. But how did they do it? Of course, they grit n’ grinded all day.
It will all start with the smoldering defense lead by Gasol’s defensive prowess inside with the help of his 7’1 frame.
The best perimeter defender in the league, Allen, along with Conley’s sneaky ability to steal the ball will cause a lot of turnovers and matchup problems for the opposition leading to either a fastbreak or a rebound by the big guys. Then this is when things get nastier with arguably the best frontline duo in the NBA of Gasol and Zach Randolph.
These guys will wear you down physically, emotionally and mentally if you’re not ready.
Give the ball to Randolph and he has that ability to pound the ball inside, muscle his way in and do some ridiculous shots right in your face. You might even regret guarding him.
Give the ball to Gasol and he will drive and power himself inside, shoot some perimeter shots or pass the ball to the open man with him being one of the best big man passers in the league.
Also, the orchestrator of the offense Mike Conley will either shoot a jump shot, a three or use his ability to drive inside with the help of Gasol’s screens to either do some floaters, layups or pass the ball to an open man.
Allen also has that ability to cut his way inside and do some athletic shots. Prince on the other hand has the ability to shoot the ball smoothly.
There’s also the duo of Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless who can give the team a spark off the bench.
If the team ever worried about a missed shot, don’t worry, Randolph, one of the best offensive rebounder in the game, will box out all the opposition’s big guys to get the ball and pound his way again inside.
Coach Hollins really did a heck of a job of bringing this team to a whole new level with an old school approach.
This Memphis’ style of basketball made me love them so much.
They became one of my two favorite NBA teams ever along with the Nash-Stoudemire-Marion era of the Phoenix Suns.
It’s ironic because these two teams play differently with the Suns being more of a run n’ gun team while the Grizzlies are more of a half-court team. But they just both possess that swagger and unique instinct that made me love them both despite their differences.
Memphis is not like any other team with explosive scorers like Lebron James, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant, they’re not like New York with a big market and a lot of endorsement darlings, and they are not the lob city Clippers bringing a lot of alley-oops and highlight plays. But they’re just a bunch of players that play as a team, and play the game of basketball physically with a lot of Grit n’ Grinding.
Being swept and having a crash-and-burn ending in the Western Conference finals didn’t erase all the things they’ve done this season for the franchise, for their fans and for me. I’ve watched every game they played in the playoffs and I can’t help but root for them always. They lost to a very talented team in the San Antonio Spurs with Duncan and Parker playing at a high level.
Memphis might not be the most talented team in the NBA but what they do have is their heart. We don’t know if they can surpass or even duplicate this kind of campaign they had going forward but Randolph said it best to the Memphis fans, “We don’t bluff.”