The title pretty much gives away the day’s playoff happenings. The Grizzlies took the series to 3-1 with a convincing 104-86 victory over San Antonio and look ever more likely to actually make me (and Tizzle) seem like geniuses for picking the upset. The Mavs recovered from the Brandon Roy-athon of the last two games to go up 3-2 in the series by beating Portland 93-82, while the Nuggets prevented the sweep (and saved me a 6-pack, more on this later) with a 104-101 win over Oklahoma City.
AP Photo/Lance Murphey
3 Points – Zach Randolph. Not because of his stats (11 points and 9 rebounds in 31 minutes). I’ve watched this series pretty closely and the one thing that has amazed me above all is Z-Bo. If you had told me two years ago that a team with Zach Randolph as the emotional leader of a team would be 3-1 up in a playoff series against Tim Duncan’s Spurs – hell, if you’d told me that Z-Bo was the leader of any playoff team that wasn’t playing in the Midwest Penal League – I’d've asked you for some of whatever drugs you were on. (To give to the police. Honest). But it’s true.
I have to bring something up here. Soon after Game 3, I got an email from a cousin in LA asking me how this Grizzlies team stacks up against the 2007 Warriors.
My response, “Totally different. The Ws could only beat Dallas. Memphis can beat anyone.”
And it’s true. It’s not fair to compare the Grizzlies to that Warriors team. That series was probably my only happy memory as a GSW fan and it was a magical time…but, if I’m being honest with myself, luck played a major role. Luck in that we were matched up against the Mavericks, the one team who were really vulnerable to rocket paced, helter skelter basketball which was the only way that team could play. Luck that our coach had an insider’s knowledge of the opposition. Had the eighth-seeded Warriors played anyone else in that series, they wouldn’t have won.
The Grizzlies are different. They’re not beating the Spurs with gimmicks or an unsustainable style – they’re winning games with defense, dominating the paint and winning the battle of the benches. And here’s the really scary thing – they’ve found their swagger. You can see it in the way they’ve played all series, even Game 2 – they’re not afraid at all of the Spurs. (That’s where the similarities with the 2007 Warriors begin and end – you could tell all series that Golden State had no fear of the Mavs and completely thought they could beat them). But if the Grizz keep playing this same style and face OKC next round…I’ll be watching every minute of that series come hell or high water.
The main reason the Grizzlies are playing so well as a team is largely because of Randolph’s maturation and becoming the heart of this team. Which is why I couldn’t not give him the 3 points.
2 Points – Tyson Chandler
Hmm, this is surprising. I did not expect the Mavs to come back. I thought they’d fold like their predecessors. Turns out I may have misjudged the level of steel in this squad.
If I did, it’s because I forgot about the impact of Tyson Chandler. I decried the trade at the start of the year – I thought the Mavs should have traded for Al Jefferson instead to give Dirk a guy who draws a low post double team – and I think we all know Cuban’s gonna overpay him, but at this stage he’s earning a pay check. Again, it’s not just his stats (although 11 points and 20 rebounds is damn impressive) – it was his defense that got him the 2 points. He provides a long, tough defensive anchor the likes of which the Mavs have never had.
1 Point – Ty Lawson
I love watching Lawson play because he reminds me of myself as a baller – smaller, but faster than everyone else. His 27 points ensured Denver avoided the sweep and that I didn’t fully lose the bet I had with my mate Terry over this series (for every away game won, the loser has to buy the winner a six-pack of beer. The series winner gets the other’s car for a week, and if it was a sweep the loser has to skinny dip in Cronulla Beach in July). Cheers Ty.
Darrell Arthur – Turned into a fireball, putting up 14 points in the final quarter. Remind me how he was the 27th pick in the 2008 draft again?
Danilo Gallinari – I’m not sold on the Cock’s clutch shooting yet (a worry for a 3pt specialist) but this was his best game this playoffs and he was a major reason for Denver’s success along with Lawson.