It has been an amazing few weeks to follow the Grizzlies fan. In the first few years the team the team was here in Memphis I got a Power Pack and usually saw a few more games more games every year. I experienced the joy and agony of the team making the playoffs only to make a quick exit every time. I even went to the first playoff game played at the Pyramid against the Spurs. That game was a perfect example of what happened in the playoffs those years. The Grizzlies played about as well as they could and played the Spurs tough but in the end the Spurs managed to win the game on the way to a sweep. In the post Gasol era I kept track of the team but not with the same fervor as previous years. There was glimpses of what the team could be but overall there was too many bad moves from management and too many frustrating losses and collapses by the team. There just didn't seem to be any hope that the team was every going to be mediocre at best and laughing stock of the NBA at worst. Then something magical happened in the 2010-2011 season. The season started off OK as they slogged through the fall and early winter there was some good wins but there was some bad losses. It always seemed to be one step forward and two steps back. Until the calendar changed to 2011, with the new year the wins started stacking up. Unlike the previous year when the Grizzlies had a similar record but faded badly at the end of the season this team kept fighting and winning. Coming down to the end of the season the Grizzlies knew they were going to play the Lakers, Spurs, or Mavericks. The team basically did not try to win the last two games so that the knew they would be facing the Spurs who were the top seed. As the playoffs started the hope was don't get swept and at least make the Spurs work before they went to the next round of the playoffs.
Then the real magic started with the playoffs. The Grizzlies outplayed and out hustled the Spurs and won game 1. It was amazing to see the team win after so many years of frustration. The Spurs won game 2 but the Grizzlies made them work for the win and they still looked to be in good shape for the next two home games. I was at game 3 and the Fed Ex Forum was loud and electric. The sold out crowd was showing it's love for the Grizzlies. The key moment of the game was late in the game the Grizzlies were up by two and needed a basket badly to make it a two possession game. Zach Randolph had the ball as the shot clock ticked down, Zach let fly a three point shot and there was a moment where time froze. The shot went in and the Forum erupted in that moment. San Antonio called time out and all you heard was a chant of Z-Bo from the crowd. The Grizzlies went on to win the game and make the series 2-1. Then it was time for the critical game 4, if the Spurs win it is all tied up and it becomes a 2 out of 3 series with the two of the games played in San Antonio. It was another exciting game and the Forum crowd was pumped up again. In the two wins there was the three pointer by Shane Battier in game one and game three there was the aforementioned Randolph three. In game 4 there was another big three. With a little under 5 minutes to go Battier his a big three pointer from the corner to put the Grizzlies up by an amazing 20 points that caused the Spurs coach Greg Popovich to wave the white flag and pull their starters. With a 3-1 stranglehold it went from maybe they can win a couple of games to this Grizzlies team could shock the world by beating the top seeded Spurs. Game 5 was in San Antonio and looking back it is ok because the Grizzlies won the series but at the time it became a question of is this where the Grizzlies lost the series. The Spurs hit two miracle shots in the waning seconds to tie up the game with the tying shot as the clock ran out. The Grizzlies ended up losing in overtime setting up a crucial game 6 in Memphis. Most people thought the Grizzlies had to win game 6 to avoid a win or go home game 7 in San Antonio. I watched the game on tv and unlike the first two games the crowd at the Forum was nervous and tentative. It was if the entire city was trying to will a game 4th win out of the Grizzlies. It was going to be successful playoff run no matter what but blowing a 3-1 would been a hard way to go out. The game came down to crunch time and the Grizzlies kept feeding the ball to Zach and he hit big shot after big shot. when the dust settled the Grizzlies won the game and the series in front of the home crowd. It was on to round two against another young and upcoming team in the NBA the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like the lst round the national media all said the Thunder would win the series. Sure the Grizzlies beat the old and slow Spurs but this would be different. In game one the Grizzlies came out with the same intensity and swagger and ran the Thunder out of their own building. Zach and Marc Gasol combined for 52 points. The home crowd went from rowdy and excited to stunned silence as the Grizzlies kept attacking and making shots. Between the game clincher on Friday and the thrashing of the Thunder on Sunday it was one of the exciting weekends I experienced as a Grizzlies fan. All day Monday I just felt good.
Right now I am watching the Grizzlies battle it out in game 2 and if they win this they will have a stranglehold on this series. It feels really good this time. In the past Grizzlies could play their best game but still couldn't catch a lucky break playing against teams that were better than them. This time it doesn't matter as much about what the other team did, if the Grizzlies play their game they have a good chance of winning. No matter what happens versus the Thunder this has been an incredible run by the Grizzlies, and as Chris Herrington from the Memphis Flyer has said this is the first time Memphis has experienced true playoff basketball.
Update - A couple hours later. It is looking like the Grizzlies will lose tonight and head back to Memphis tied up 1-1. The Thunder are hitting on all cylinders tonight and the Grizzlies can't seem to get going. This is the first out and out bad game the Grizzlies have played in the playoffs this year. No matter what the Thunder have to win one in Memphis.