With a remarkable, overtime comeback victory over Golden State on Saturday, the Memphis Grizzlies became the first team to defeat the Warriors twice in the same regular season since the San Antonio Spurs accomplished the same feat in the 2014-15 season. The Conley-less Grizzlies shocked the NBA with an 110-89 beat down of the Warriors back in December at the Grindhouse, giving Golden State its fourth loss of the season.
Even with that win in mind, the Warriors sixth loss of the year may have been even more surprising. The Grizzlies came roaring back from a 24-point second-half deficit, the largest comeback in the league this season, to hand the Warriors just their third loss at the deafening Oracle on the year.
Starting at the 7:47 mark of the fourth quarter, Memphis went on a 16-0 run in 2:46 of game time to cut the lead to two (104-102) heading into the final five minutes of action. Mike Conley drained a shot with 7.4 seconds remaining to tie the game up at 111, propelling Memphis to outscore Golden State 17-8 in the overtime period. For the whole of the fourth quarter and overtime, the Grizzlies outscored Golden State 49-21.
Memphis continues its incredible run in close games, improving its overtime record to 5-1 for the year. The wily vets seem to have an answer for just about any late game situation thrown their way, with everyone from the usual suspects like Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph to unexpected offensive takeovers from Troy Daniels or Vince Carter leading the way in the waning moments. Even Tony Allen has come through in the clutch on offense.
On Saturday, Mike, Marc, and Z-Bo each scored over 20 points for the second time all season. Randolph may have had the most impressive game of the three, coming off the bench to post a 27-11-6 line (and shooting 12-17 from the field) to bolster his Sixth Man of the year campaign further.
Conley turned in a well-rounded 27-4-12 line of his own, and Gasol contributed 23-5-3. The Grindfather notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go along with six steals while taking the Steph Curry defensive assignment with glee down the stretch. Daniels scored 12 points from four opportune three-pointers, all of which came in the fourth quarter or overtime. Even Chandler Parsons contributed an efficient 10 points in 16 minutes. The Grizzlies weathered a 40-point night from Curry, ended Golden State’s four-game streak of notching 40 assists and shooting at least 50 percent, and out-rebounded the Warriors 47-44. The #SouthBest Division has now claimed four of the six Warriors losses (two for the Grizzlies and one each for the Spurs and Rockets, with the other two L’s coming from the Cavaliers and…Lakers).
All this is to say, what do these wins mean for the Grizzlies big picture? The Warriors, although still an elite team and probably the favorite to win it all, are obviously a step down from last year’s all-time greatest regular season. They are not killing themselves for every single win like they did during the run to 73-9. And they have not quite yet figured out how to operate in late-game situations, choosing to defer to the “your turn, my turn” method of past Thunder teams instead of the free-flowing Warriors offense we are used to.
BUT, it still has to mean something that these Grizzlies have now taken down the Warriors twice. With all that’s happened since, (a championship, 73-9, two 3-1 comebacks, a unanimous MVP, the Durant decision, etc.) people have forgotten that Memphis made the Warriors sweat more than arguably anyone on the way to the 2015-16 championship. They even had them on the ropes for an admittedly short time during the “First-Team All-Defense” series.
The Grizzlies may not be one of the five biggest threats to win the title (the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Rockets, and a healthy Clippers all have more of a shot at this point), but, once again, Memphis is going to give some upper-tier contender hell in the playoffs. With a couple of lucky bounces, the Grizzlies could find themselves in the Western Conference Finals against Golden State with nothing to lose and a blueprint to win.