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Nine-Day NBA Playoffs Warning: The Memphis Grizzlies and the Battle for the Eighth Seed

The NBA Playoffs start in nine days (!!!!!!!!) so each day until then we’ll be taking a look at some of the most important storylines leading up to the best two months of the year.

After making the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history last year, this season has not exactly gone as planned for the Memphis Grizzlies. While a trip back to the WCF—or further—certainly wasn’t guaranteed in the brutally tough West, nearly everyone thought a playoff spot was.

They started off a bit slow, going five hundred over the first few weeks of the season, which would have been fine had they not then lost Marc Gasol for eight dreadfully long weeks. The rest of the squad was able to grit-n-grind and hold things together enough to not give up on the season when Gasol returned, but they had still dug themselves a big hole. But Gasol returned on they won nine out of ten and suddenly they were right back in the hunt for the playoffs, and they’ve been there ever since.

Going into last night’s primetime matchup against the Miami Heat, the Grizzlies desperately needed a win. One game behind the Suns, with Phoenix taking on a Pelicans team that’s crawling to the finish line, the Grizzlies simply couldn’t afford to fall another game behind with only a handful remaining.

Sometimes there are nights when you flip around, checking out a bunch of different games on League Pass or just half pay attention because you aren’t feeling the games on that night. Last night, however, was not one of those nights. Last night was Heat-Grizzlies on ESPN, and it was awesome, and I was locked in. There was no changing the channel during commercials on this one for fear of missing out on a moment of brilliance in a masterpiece of a game.

From start to finish, this was one of the best games out of thousand or so we’ve seen this year. Zach Randolph couldn’t miss, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis (!?!) were hitting threes, Marc Gasol was doing Marc Gasol things (just check out this pass), LeBron was doing LeBron things (he finished with 37/6/5), the crowd was fired up; it was anything and everything you could want from a regular season game.

The Grizzlies ended up pulling away down the stretch in the fourth quarter, winning 107-102. And in doing so they kept pace with the Suns, who took care of business against Pierre and the Pelicans.

With four games left, the Grizzlies have little room for error as they try to hunt down the Suns and Mavericks for that precious last playoff spot out West. And with Memphis’ last two games being on the road against Phoenix and at home against Dallas, they’ll have every chance to do so.

Yes, the playoffs are coming soon, but don’t check out on these last few games just yet, because if last night’s contest was any indication, they’re going to be FANtastic.

 

(h/t to Grantland for the idea behind these series of posts)

jmaloney