Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bear Season

Did anyone really doubt?

I mean, the Memphis Grizzlies were a great story, and it was fashionable to talk about them as a dark horse coming out of the Western Conference for a while, in the same way it was fashionable to talk about how you couldn't wait to go see Oz The Great And Powerful until it actually showed up in theaters and you suddenly realized you had much better things to do with your life. Yes, they beat a Clippers team that was hobbled by injuries and crippled by internal dissension over the fate of its underskilled coach. Yes, they also beat a Thunder team that was - stop me if you've heard this - crippled by injuries. And they had some nifty inside-outside play, and Kid Gasol has finally grown up, and any Sixers fan who roots against a team coached by Lionel Hollins should have their fan card revoked.

But.

The fact is, they don't get past a Thunder team at full strength. They probably don't get past an all-cylinders Clippers team. I mean, kudos to Griz GM Chris Wallace for putting together a very good team, but the fact of the matter is that the NBA playoffs are an endless deathmarch where there are too many opportunities for one injury to wreck a team's entire season. (See also: Westbrook, Russell; If you ever wondered why any given series can last longer than the siege of Stalingrad, it's so the inevitable casualties of the four-round grind have the month or so before the playoffs end to get themselves back into playing shape.) Both of Memphis' prior opponents fell victim to attrition as much as they did Zach Randolph and Mike Conley.

But.

The Spurs don't lose series to teams like the Griz. They lose series when they're outmanned and outgunned, when the talent difference is just too much for execution and coaching to overcome. When the playing field is reasonably level, they're a machine. Duncan and Parker and Ginobili have been through the grind too many times together under coach Greg Popovich, are just too automatic and practiced to beat themselves. And so as much fun as the Grizzlies were, deep down, we all knew this was the end of the line for them.

But, hey. It was fun while it lasted.

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