The storyline during the Eastern Conference playoffs, as expected, has been dominated by LeBron and his Cavs. But out west, we were expecting each and every series to grab headlines because of how competitive the conference has been.
The Pelicans are extreme underdogs against the Warriors, but the star power of Steph Curry and Anthony Davis will keep the series in the spotlight for as long as it lasts. The Rockets won what have been good games against the Mavericks so far, but with Rondo out of the picture, the Mavs have a good chance to rally. And then the Spurs and Clippers have the potential to be an all-time great first-round series.
The matchup that nobody seems to be talking about is the Grizzlies vs. Blazers. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t been interesting, but it’s certainly been convincing. After sweeping the season series from Portland, 4-0, Memphis has jumped out to a 2-0 lead, winning the first two games by 14 and 15 points.
Game 1 wasn’t even as close as it sounds. The Grizz destroyed the Blazers out of the gates and never looked back, growing their lead to as many as 29 points. The Blazers got their first lead of the series in Game 2, but it didn’t last past the second quarter as Memphis dominated the rest of the game again.
It’s been a defensive series — even the Blazers are holding the Grizzlies to 98.5 points through two games, while Portland has only mustered 84 points per game. There also aren’t any elite stars featured in the series, which definitely hurts. Damian Lillard is exciting, but has been a shell of himself in the postseason (and getting outplayed by the underrated Mike Conley). LaMarcus Aldridge has been scoring, but getting brutally outworked by Memphis’ two best players — Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Gasol and Randolph are probably the reason that fans aren’t watching this series like they are the others. They’re both powerful, back-to-the-basket bigs that control the paint — admittedly not the sexiest style of play in the new small-ball NBA. Their effectiveness, however, is off the charts. They’ve combine for 56 points and 39 rebounds thus far in the series, and Gasol has swatted away six shots. Their combine plus/minus is a plus-32.
Aside from the style of play, Memphis limped into the playoffs. They fell from the two-seed where they sat much of the season to the five-seed, and their backcourt of Conley and Tony Allen have both been dealing with injury problems. Many believed Memphis had fallen out of contention. But so far they’ve proved that theory wrong.
Even if the Blazers find their offense, the Grizzlies are likely going to win this series. I’m not going to convince you to try and watch all of it … there’s more entertaining basketball out there right now. But when they do win, it’s going to be a clash of styles against the Warriors in the next round. Both are defensive teams, but couldn’t be any different on the offensive side of the ball — athletic guards that can shoot the lights out for GSW and a pound it down low mentality for the Grizz. It’s going to be a tough matchup for them, but maybe that’s what it will take for people to pay attention to what Memphis is doing.
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