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Memphis Grizzlies: A bear of a team

By Eddie Leonard
On November 29, 2012

The NBA season started a month ago and the Memphis Grizzlies are at the top of the power rankings in the Western Conference.
Are they having a hot streak like the Knicks had? Are they going to cool down in a couple games? No, not at all. The city of Memphis will soon be known for its hoops team in addition to its music scene. The Grizzles are the hottest team in the NBA. They were a young team on the rise for several years and everyone has been waiting for them to have a breakout season. The wait is over.
The Grizzles, 10-2, have the second best record in the NBA. They did not earn this record by playing bad teams. The Grizzlies have beaten the most elite teams in the NBA, including the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, NY Knicks and the LA Lakers, with decisive victories. The Grizzlies can play with anyone.
They have a talented roster. They are the Thunder from last year, in laymen terms. They are one of the youngest, fastest, biggest and most talented teams in the NBA.
The Grizzlies' starting five are ages 31, 30, 27, 26 and 25. They all have speed and can run the floor in transition. Point guard Mike Connelly averages almost 15 points and 6.5 assists per game.
Tony Allen, their shooting guard, is one of the best shut down defenders in the NBA and averages almost eight points per game.
Rudy Gay, probably the most talented shooter on the team, scores about 20 points per game and tends to come through in the clutch.
The Grizzlies successfully separate themselves from other teams becuse their two star players are both able to rebound and score in and out of the paint.
At 6'9" and 260 pounds, power forward Zach Randolph is a freight train down low, netting 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds per game making him third in the league in rebounding.
Marc Gasol, a 7'1" center, shoots 90 percent from the line, and averages about 15 points, seven boards and five assists per game. He's an all around fantastic player.
The Grizzles are dangerous mostly because of their starting five. They do not need to rely on one or two players to have that big night because their scoring is even across the board. Four players on their team average at least 15 points per game and another five players coming off the bench average five to eight points a night. The Grizzlies gained lot of respect in the NBA as the season progressed. They were ranked ninth in the preseason but quickly shot up to No. 1 in power rankings at one point. They have one of the loudest arenas in the league, the FedEx Forum, an arena where no one wants to play. The Grizzlies are difficult to beat because Gasol and Randolph dominate down low and will either score or get fouled. When fouled, they shoot for a combined 82 percent from the charity stripe.
If a team finds a way to shut them both down, they kick the ball out to their snipers on the perimeter: Gay, Conley and Allen. And if their shots don't fall (but they normally do), then Gay and Conley can create their own shots by driving to the hole. In addition to their exceptional offense, they are all great defenders. The team is ranked third in points allowed per game.
The Grizzlies have been waiting for this breakout year for a long time. However, they are not coming out of nowhere. They were the fourth eight-seeded team in NBA history to defeat a No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs. They beat the No. 1 seeded Spurs in six games two years ago. They almost made it to the Western Conference Finals that year, but they lost a nail-biting seven game series to the Thunder. They regrouped last year but were again knocked out by the Clippers in seven games. However, Zach Randolph was injured much of the year.
But he's are back. They are angry, young, strong, fast and hungry for a shot at the title. They are ready to make a lot of noise in the playoffs for the third straight year. Pressure does not affect this group of young players, which would have been the only argument against them. Good luck to any team that has to face them down the road.  

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