Now that the Golden State Warriors have tied the NBA record for wins in a season with 72, it’s a forgone conclusion that they will roll to their record-breaking 73rd victory in the regular season at home against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. Between doing something that has never been done before and facing off against a banged up team, there’s no way Golden State will fall short of the mark. At least, that’s the way it seems.
To say the Grizzlies are an injury-riddled club is an understatement. First, they lost All-Star center Marc Gasol for the season, and then they lost their point guard Mike Conley. Without their top two players, Memphis has gone just 10-16 since the All-Star break (including a current 1-8 stretch over their past nine games). The team will be a part of the postseason for a sixth straight season, but at this point, it feels like they won’t do much of anything once the playoffs begin.
With that, the current state of the Grizzlies is less than desirable, making it difficult to believe they have any shot at beating the defending league champions. However, no matter how bad things are in Memphis, there are few reasons to think they could be a serious roadblock in the Warriors’ historical pursuit. Let’s look at three reasons to like the Grizzlies’ odds.
Maybe pride is an overused factor in any sporting event, but for the Grizzlies, it provides plenty of incentive to play their best game of the season on Wednesday night. This team has been one of the most consistent franchises in the Western Conference over the past several seasons. They have veteran players on their roster, like Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, who have been through as much as anybody in the league over the course of their lengthy careers.
A win against Golden State on such a huge stage would remind us all that this club always needs to be taken seriously. Another point of pride for the Grizzlies is the fact that they have struggled so much down the stretch. With their losing ways of late, nobody expects them to even challenge in their first-round playoff series.
Again, a win in the season finale would allow Memphis to stake a claim that they aren’t happy to just participate in the postseason frenzy. Also, they have something to play for in terms of playoff seeding, as they can still earn the five-seed out West and avoid a first-round date against the Warriors, Spurs, or Thunder — a prize worth fighting for.
Over the years, Memphis has earned a reputation as a tough, grind-it-out kind of team (they do call their home court the “Grind House”). That’s because of their physical style of play, which focuses on getting the ball in the paint, dominating the glass, and being strong defensively. Here in 2015-16, the Grizzlies have displayed that style of basketball once again.
Despite their injuries, they still own a top-10 defense. While the rebounding and offensive numbers haven’t been the same, that tough-minded mentality is still clearly present. Another note on the Grizzlies toughness: Memphis has lost several games by five points or less this season, proving that they are competitive most nights.
This team could be well out of the playoff picture and they still would find a way to challenge the Warriors on Wednesday. They are simply too strong-willed to not show up and give it everything they got in the season finale.
Over the past couple seasons, the Grizzlies gave the Warriors all they can handle whenever the two sides meet up. Last season, they went just 1-2 during the regular season against Golden State, but nearly beat the Warriors in Oakland near the end of the season. Of course, the teams matched up in the second-round of the playoffs, where the Grizzlies managed a 2-1 series lead before losing in six games. Memphis was one of the biggest hurdles the Warriors had to overcome on their road to an NBA title.
This season, things haven’t gone well for Memphis against Golden State, as they have lost all three meetings (including a 50-point drubbing way back in November). However, in their last matchup, the Grizzlies nearly ended the Warriors’ run at history, as Golden State needed a serious fourth-quarter rally to earn a one-point win. Although Golden State usually finds a way to get by Memphis, the Grizzlies almost always find a way to give them a battle.
While there are some smaller reasons for optimism for the Grizzlies on Wednesday, they will need a near-perfect game to earn one of the most notable upsets in basketball history. The Warriors have been chasing this record all season long and they will likely treat Wednesday’s contest as a playoff game.
A depleted roster against the best team in the game is a clear mismatch, and we should see win No. 73 for Golden State as the regular season comes to an end. However, if they don’t give the Grizzlies their due respect, the headlines could read differently.