By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Memphis Grizzlies have shocked the NBA world by reaching the playoffs this season the hard way. They had to defeat both the San Antonio Spurs at home and the Golden State Warriors on the road as the ninth-place finisher. But they did both those things, surviving a brilliant 39-point outburst from Steph Curry in the Golden State game and despite blowing a nine-point lead in the final two minutes and having to win in overtime. Ja Morant’s brilliance (35 points, six assists, six rebounds, four steals) keyed the 117-112 win and
the Grizzlies became the youngest team since the 2010-11 Oklahoma Thunder to make the playoffs.
Their reward is getting the team with the best record in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are also getting their best player back in Donovan Mitchell, who had been out injured for nearly a month. The Jazz led the NBA in several offensive categories, among them three-point shooting. They also have in Rudy Gobert one of the top defensive centers in either conference.
But the Grizzlies are as healthy as they’ve been all season. Jaren Jackson Jr. is back, and he gives them another scoring threat to go with Morant, Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke. They’ve also gotten Justise Winslow back into the rotation, and Grayson Allen has emerged as a creditable three-point threat.
The Grizzlies’ major problem in the second half of the season was a tendency to blow big leads, something that cost them critical games down the stretch and put them into the play-in tournament. No one really anticipates them beating the Jazz, and they really weren’t even expected to beat Golden State, so any wins they get will be a bonus.
They also haven’t been in the playoffs since 2016-17, so it’s a good feeling for Grizzlies’ fans to see them in the postseason. They will play Game 3 Saturday night at FedEx Forum, and Game 4 May 31.