Tony Allen post game interview following Grizzlies victory over Oklahoma City in January. History repeated itself last Wednesday with another Grizzlies win over the Thunder.
The writer called the Grizzlies a mediocre team and classified the Thunder’s loss as a “bad one.”
While I agree with Mayberry on one of these claims, I completely disagree with the other.
This was a “bad loss” for the Thunder for two reasons, the absence of the Grizzlies’ primary scorer and only same-size defender for Kevin Durant in Rudy Gay, and the Grizzlies grueling four games in five night schedule.
And yes, every NBA team has to undergo the rigorous stretches in the schedule, San Antonio has the rodeo road trip, the Lakers have the Grammy road trip and every team has played four games in five nights.
But these stretches do take a toll on most NBA players.
So the Grizzlies played an overtime heartbreaker on Saturday night in Houston, a rough physical game against the two-time defending champions in Memphis on Monday, and another overtime game in Oklahoma City in the span of four days.
As for the absence of Rudy Gay, the team got help from an unlikely source, Tony Allen. His defense on the much larger Durant was spectacular but the real surprise was his offense.
The same offense that makes fans wince as he goes flying the basket with reckless abandon. Instead of the usual missed layup or offensive charge Allen tied the game with his three-point play with less than a minute to go.
But his impact wasn’t about one play or a collection of plays; it was feeling he brought to the court.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said Tony Allen won the game for the Grizzlies. It’s true, if Allen wasn’t on the court the Grizzlies would have lost.
But he brings something else to the team, a confidence that they can beat anyone, anytime. This for the young, inexperienced Grizzlies is invaluable.
Back to Mayberry, I would argue if the Grizzlies are a mediocre team then the loss becomes much worse for the Thunder. They lost at home to an undermanned and exhausted Grizzlies team.
Every team has bad games (the Grizzlies have had some whoppers) and some games are just isolated incidents.
But this game has implications for both teams outside of its three hour duration. The Thunder and their quest to be an elite team in the western conference seem far from possible.
For the Grizzlies it was a gut-check victory, a season-defining win.
If the Grizzlies lose to the Thunder their record drops back to five hundred, with the win the Grizzlies remain two games above and two games from Portland for the eight playoff spot.
This is also the second straight Grizzlies’ victory over the Thunder. So Wednesday night, the Grizzlies looked far from mediocre.