The Memphis Grizzlies’ season ends with Grit And Gratitude


The Memphis Grizzlies lost Game 6 of their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday evening, 103-96. It was the conclusion of an intense, physical first round series between the two veteran teams. Memphis was unable to force Game 7 in a close game that went down to the final minute. Credit the Grizzlies for playing and competing for every game against a true contender/potential Warriors slayer.

Here are 5 takeaways from Game 6 at the Grindhouse, and the Grizzlies' conclusion to the 2016-2017 season…

1) Physicality All Around

The Memphis Grizzlies are known for their rough and tough, Grit N’ Grind style of basketball. Six years into the Grit N’ Grind era, Memphis continued to battle. Thursday’s matchup was no different. Memphis packed the paint whenever the Spurs drove into the lane, contesting every attempt in the paint with long arms and contact. There was a total of 46 fouls committed by both teams, with 49 free throws attempted.

The big difference between the two teams was on the glass. Both teams crashed the glass hard, but the Spurs were able to swing the game in the fourth quarter by outhustling the Grizzlies on the offensive glass. It led to easy baskets and extended possessions for one of the NBA’s most efficient teams. On the offensive end, Memphis failed to create offense for themselves outside of Mike Conley’s effective drives. San Antonio grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to the Grizzlies’ 7. That may have provided the difference in the tightly contested game.

2) Vince Carter, still amazing

Vince Carter is 40 years old. While he may be in the twilight of his legendary career, this series was a coming out party for VC. He showed that despite his advanced age, he still is an effective option, even during intense playoff games. Carter finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He played 32 minutes for Memphis and was in charge of containing Kawhi Leonard. Here's Carter straight up picking Leonard's pocket.

Carter has confirmed that he will be back for his 20th season in October. At the postgame press conference, Coach David Fizdale sang Carter’s praises, commending his veteran leadership. Meanwhile, Carter was working out in the Memphis gym, right after the loss. We know that Carter’s amazing. But at age 40, it’s 100% hard work.

3) The Mike Conley Show

The second-best player in the entire series, consistently, was Mike Conley. Conley was the reason Memphis stayed competitive at several instances in the series. Conley’s floater was a go-to weapon for Memphis, capitalizing on his effective and slithery in-between game. In his 44 minutes, Conley was the catalyst, scoring 26 points, chipping in 6 assists and only committing 2 turnovers. While his counterpart, Tony Parker, may have had a strong game himself, Conley was everywhere, a key cog in Memphis leads throughout the game.

This season showed that Conley was worth his max contract. In a point guard dominated league, Conley has staked claim as an upper tier floor general. He was a leader on the court and off, with coach David Fizdale singing his praises in the now infamous “Take That For Data” rant. Conley’s toughness and ability to step up in the clutch was especially evident in the series against the Spurs. He is the present and future of Memphis Grizzlies basketball. Just don’t call him underrated.

4) Fighting through adversity

Going into the series, many knew that a Memphis series against the Spurs would be a tough task. That difficulty was magnified with Tony Allen missing the series, and with Chandler Parsons’ continued absence. Despite this adversity, Memphis fought. And battled. And clawed. And competed. Every. Single. Night. Several players stepped up in the absence of these two major players. JaMychal Green may have earned himself a big contract in free agency. James Ennis played solidly, a strong young development option for a Memphis team that has struggled in cultivating young talent. He had some big buckets down the line.

Troy Daniels saw extended minutes as a solid floor spacer. And for Vince Carter – we know the story.

Much like their Spurs opponents, Memphis showed that it’s about the team, not about the individuals. Led by the no-nonsense trio of Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, and Mike Conley, Memphis has had players buy in. Despite the team’s limitations, the team went to toe-to-toe with San Antonio, pulling out two convincing victories against a full strength Spurs squad. That fight was evident most prominently in the Grizzlies' signature Game 4 overtime victory. Despite the result, the series was a promising sign for Memphis basketball.

5) The Final Minutes

The final moments of Game 6 were dramatic – and heartbreaking for the Memphis Grizzlies and their fans. Kawhi Leonard took over, again. Coach Fizdale said post-game that Leonard “bleeds anti-freeze.” The Klaw couldn’t go cold and was exceptional throughout the series. Memphis had trouble responding on the offensive end. James Ennis committed a crucial turnover with 2 minutes left. Marc Gasol was unable to secure a rebound off of a Kawhi Leonard miss. With less than a minute left in the game, Mike Conley was fouled on the three-point line, with the chance to bring the game to three-points with the score at 100-95. Conley missed the third free throw, ultimately sealing Memphis’ fate.

Despite this, the Memphis crowd was grateful. Even with the team down 7 with 12 seconds left in the game, the crowd was loud. They chanted “Let’s Go Grizzlies” even though the game was pretty much decided. It was a sign of respect and gratitude from the loyal fans at the FedEx Forum/Grindhouse. After the game, Coach Gregg Popovich was seen giving a heartfelt talk to David Fizdale, turning his microphone off. Even Tony Parker gave credit to the team, thankful that the Spurs wouldn’t have to face the tough, physical Grizzlies again in the playoffs. It was a sign of respect for a team that seemingly had no chance of victory going into the series.

Outlook

Despite the first round exit, this postseason was a promising sign for the Grizzlies. Unlike last season’s sweep to San Antonio, Memphis competed, despite several holes in their lineup. The team, with a new head coach, earned a newfound respect throughout the league. Going forward, Grit N’ Grind basketball may see some changes. But the culture and formula for success has already been established.

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