2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Memphis Grizzlies

Marc Gasol had an All-Star year, but he
also got booted out in the first round.
(image by the Associated Press)

By all intents and purposes, this season’s edition of the Memphis Grizzlies was better than last season’s. Mike Conley continued his stellar play, Rudy Gay was back, and Marc Gasol had an All-Star year. Even if you consider that Zach Randolph missed most of the season, the “net” product was still very very impressive. So impressive, in fact, that Memphis finished as the fourth seed in the Westertn Conference. They enjoyed homecourt advantage in the first round for the FIRST TIME ever.

What’s not to love, right?

Well, losing in the first round.

In seven games.

At home.

To an LA Clippers team that was incomplete and hobbling.

Now, it’s the Grizzlies’ turn to sit on their couches and watch as the team they tormented last April (San Antonio) torments the team that tormented them last week (the Clips).

Still, considering everything, this season should still serve as a rallying point for the team, provided they make the right decisions, and there will be critical decisions to be made, in the offseason.

The only real big player commitments they have are with Gasol, Randolph, Gay, Conley, and, at least till next year, Tony Allen.

That’s the first five, right there.

But how about the rest of the team?

Arguably the biggest name who might come out of the offseason in a different jersey is one of the team’s most explosive scorers – OJ Mayo.

Mayo has shown he can play through the 1-3 positions for the Grizzlies, and he has repeatedly displayed his shooting touch (just discount the last game they played, he shot 1-of-11). Yet, this team has been aching to shop him to the highest bidder since he was drafted in ’08 (interestingly, that was Mayo’s most productive season with 18.5ppg, 3.2apg, and a 38.4% clip from range). And because the contracts of Memphis’s first five alone don’t leave a lot of space for a deep supporting cast, I won’t be surprised if Mayo gladly signs elsewhere.

Ditto with versatile big men Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights. Both Speights and Arthur have shown they can mix it up with other teams’ tier-1 bigs, but will they stay knowing they probably won’t get what they’re worth while playing behind Gasol, Gay, and Zeebo?

I just don’t think Mayo, Arthur, and Speights will all be back. At least two of those guys will be gone by November. I’m sure of it.

Still, if you’re a Grizz fan, losing any or all of those guys shouldn’t rock the boat too much. A solid first five, and Memphis’s first five is SUPER SOLID, should be enough to tow the team to the Playoffs again, and maybe past the first couple of rounds, too.

Can Rudy Gay and the Grizzlies keep their team intact for
another playoff run next year?
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
But that’s the other thing – can ALL of these guys stay healthy long enough for them to make another magical run? With Zeebo turning 31 soon, time might be running out faster than many think.

Memphis undoubtedly has the potential to be another example of a team that develops its draftees and combines them with stellar acquisitions (read: OKC Thunder), but, if the Grizzlies aren’t careful, they might just be the West’s version of an above-average team that will never be a contender (read: Atlanta Hawks).

Game Recaps:

OKC over LAL, 77-75
Kevin Durant scored the go-ahead basket with 18.6 seconds left Wednesday night and the Oklahoma City Thunder closed on a 9-0 run to beat the Lakers 77-75 in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Durant snaked his way to the baseline on the right side and dropped in a one- handed floater over Pau Gasol for the lead. Earlier in the game-ending run, he leapt in the LA backcourt to steal a pass from Kobe Bryant, racing down for a fastbreak dunk. Indeed, the Thunder may have stolen a win. Despite trailing 75-68 with just two minutes left, they will go to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Friday with a 2-0 lead in the series. Durant scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook had 15 and James Harden added 13 off the bench for the second-seeded Thunder, who were coming off Monday's 29- point win in Game 1, when they led by as many as 35. Durant and Harden scored all nine points on Oklahoma City's 9-0 run at the end. Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 20 points apiece to lead LA and Gasol had 14.

BOS over PHI, 107-91
Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce all recorded double-doubles by the time the fourth quarter began, as the Boston Celtics rolled over the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-91, in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The upstart Sixers, after earning a split in Boston, came out Wednesday poised to take a series lead, but the Celtics outscored the defensive-minded club by a 61-33 count in the second and third quarters to win going away. Garnett finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds, Rondo added 23 points and 14 assists and Pierce put up 24 points and 12 boards despite dealing with an ailing left knee. Boston committed just seven turnovers and shot 52 percent from the floor against a Sixers club that allowed the third fewest points (89.4 ppg) during the regular season. Thaddeus Young had a team-high 22 points off the bench for Sixers, whose starters combined for 36 points on 30-percent (12-of-40) shooting. Wells Fargo Center will again be the setting for Game 4 on Friday.

IND over MIA, 94-75
Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 18 rebounds Thursday night and the Indiana Pacers rolled to a 94-75 win over the Miami Heat to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. George Hill scored 20 points, Danny Granger added 17 and David West had 14 for the Pacers, who took control with a 26-12 third quarter and led comfortably in the fourth on the way to their second straight win. LeBron James scored 22 points for the Heat, but Dwyane Wade had just five -- all in the second half -- while Mario Chalmers led the way with 25. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. James scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half and came out of the game, along with Wade and Chalmers, with 2:43 remaining and the Heat trailing by 20. Miami is still smarting from the loss of forward Chris Bosh, who went down in Game 1 with a lower abdominal strain and isn't expected to be available for the series. Wade played, but his scoring was absent for most of the game. He didn't hit his first shot until the third quarter and was seen having a testy exchange with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra during a timeout. Miami trailed by 14 entering the fourth and never got closer than 11; the Pacers led by as many as 21.

SAS over LAC, 105-88
Unbeaten in more than five weeks, the San Antonio Spurs don't appear to be slowing down or wearing out. Their 16th win in a row has them one step closer to the Western Conference Finals. Tony Parker had 22 points, Tim Duncan scored 18 and the Spurs beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-88 Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in their semifinal series. Game 3 is Saturday afternoon in LA. The Spurs' 16-game winning streak dates back to April 12 and includes a sweep of the Utah Jazz in the first round. Boris Diaw added 16 points for top-seeded San Antonio, Danny Green scored 13 and Manu Ginobili had 10 off the bench, all in the first half. Blake Griffin led the fifth-seeded Clippers with 20 points, Randy Foye scored 11 and Chris Paul had just 10 with five assists.

PHI over BOS, 92-83
Lou Williams scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half as the Philadelphia 76ers overcame a dismal first half to take a 92-83 victory over the Boston Celtics and even their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece. Andre Iguodala added 16 points, including the go-ahead jumper within the final two minutes, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists for the Sixers, whose bench outscored Boston's 44-12. Evan Turner also dropped in 16 points while Thaddeus Young had 12 and Jrue Holiday netted 11 in the win. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists in a losing effort. Game 5 of this best-of-seven set will take place Monday in Boston.

LAL over OKC, 99-96
Kobe Bryant scored eight of his team's final 10 points on Friday and the Lakers willed their way to a 99-96 win over the Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. Bryant finished with 36 points on 9-of-25 shooting and made all 18 of his free throws, including a pair with 33.8 seconds left which put Los Angeles on top for good. As a team the Lakers, who were blown out in the series opener and fell in Game 2 despite leading by nine in the final minutes, made 41-of-42 foul shots. Andrew Bynum added 15 points and 11 rebounds and Pau Gasol chipped in 15 and 11. Steve Blake, who missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in Game 2, chipped in 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting. The Thunder suffered their first loss of this postseason after sweeping the defending NBA-champion Mavericks in the first round. Kevin Durant had 31 points in the setback but missed a potential tying three-pointer on the game's final possession. Game 4 will take place Saturday in Los Angeles.

SAS over LAC, 96-86
Tony Parker scored 23 points, Tim Duncan had 19 and the San Antonio Spurs came back from 24 points down on Saturday afternoon to beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 96-86, for a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal. The Spurs used a 24-0 run in the third quarter to climb out of their biggest hole this postseason and won their 17th game in a row dating to the regular season. Blake Griffin had 28 points to lead the Clippers, but an eight-minute drought in the third quarter has them on the brink of elimination. Game 4 is Sunday night in LA.

OKC over LAL, 103-100
The Thunder stole another game from the Lakers on Saturday, getting a go-ahead three-pointer from Kevin Durant with 13.7 seconds left en route to a 103-100 comeback win in the Western Conference semifinals. The Thunder, who scored the final nine points to snatch a victory in Game 2, trailed by as many as 13 in this one but closed with a 25-9 run to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Durant finished with 31 points, Russell Westbrook had 37 and the Oklahoma City franchise earned its first road playoff win over the Lakers in its last 15 tries. Kobe Bryant, who scored eight of his team's final 10 points in Friday's Game 3 win, had 38 to pace Los Angeles. Game 5 will be Monday at Oklahoma City.

The Lakers wanted to avert a 1-3 hole, and then, with 13.7 seconds
 to go, Kevin Durant happened.
(image by the Associated Press)
*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.
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