No team in NBA history has come back to win a series when trailing 0-3. Cue the Memphis Grizzlies, who are in a 0-3 hole to the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s Western Conference Finals.
Memphis was blown out in Game 1, and they have lost in back-to-back overtime games to create what seems to be an insurmountable deficit.
Zach Randolph is not playing nearly as well as he did in the first two playoff series. The Grizzlies as a team are shooting only 38.8 percent from the floor. The best defensive team in the NBA (or at least we thought) is getting torn to shreds by an extraordinarily efficient Spurs offense (allowing 97 points per game in the Western Conference Finals, after allowing just 89.3 points during the regular season).
While some analysts and fans are ready to concede the series to the Spurs, others are not ready to throw in the growl towel just yet.
For those fans who still believe and for those who have lost hope, here are some reasons why you should believe the Grizzlies can still win the series:
The emergence of Mike Conley:
Fans and experts continue to harp on Conley’s improvement, and for good reason. He is the facilitator of the offense (leads this year’s playoffs in total assists), and he is averaging 17.3 points and 5.3 assists in the Western Conference Finals. Conley also made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team this year, and has been holding his own on that half of the court as well. His five steals in game three gave the Spurs problems, and led to several easy buckets for Memphis early on in the contest. With Conley playing some of the best ball of his career, you have to believe Memphis still has a chance in this series.
The last two games have been close:
Of course almost does not count, but back-to-back overtime losses show that there is not much separating these two teams. If Memphis made a few more baskets, got a few more loose balls, or made one more big play this series could easily be 2-1 in the Grizzlies favor. The Grizzlies have shown that they are more than capable of beating the Spurs, but the problem is they do it in spurts and have failed to put together a complete game. They were blown out for most of game two, but they then outscored San Antonio by 12 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Memphis followed that awesome fourth quarter with an even better first quarter in game three, holding the Spurs to just 13 points and playing inspired defense which forced eight turnovers. In fact, if you take the last quarter of game two and first three quarters of game three, make them their own game, Memphis wins 86-73. All the Grizzlies have to do is put together a good game from start to finish, and they should be able to force this series to seven games.
Zach Randolph cannot continue to play this poorly:
Seriously. The focal point for the Memphis offense is averaging just 10.3 points per game in this series, which is significantly lower than his 2013 playoff average of 17.7 points per game. To make matters worse, Z-Bo is shooting a mind numbing 27.2 percent against San Antonio in the playoffs. Sure the Spurs are doing a good job doubling, fronting, and playing Randolph’s left hand, but some of the issue is Randolph just missing shots that he usually makes. If you need evidence of his shooting slump, just look at his free throw percentage in this series. Z-Bo is a 76.5 percent free throw shooter for his career, and he shot 75 percent from the charity strip this season. However, Randolph is shooting an abysmal 43.8 percent from the line so far in this series. Randolph is a much better player than he is showing right now, and the law of averages says he will not continue to play this poorly for the rest of the series.
Memphis has not been swept since the 2005-2006 playoffs:
It was the Dallas Mavericks who last swept Memphis out of the playoffs. Led by Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks easily handled the Grizzlies, winning by an average margin of victory of 14 points. Five playoff series have passed since then, with none of them ending in a sweep. Memphis has lost two of those series, and both of them were decided in seven games. This franchise has too much pride to just lay down against the Spurs, so expect them to give San Antonio all they can handle.
The Grindhouse is one of the most difficult places for opposing teams to play in the NBA:
There is no altitude to worry about like the Pepsi Center and it is not as storied an arena as Madison Square Garden, but it is extremely difficult for opponents to win games in FedExForum. The Grizzlies have lost a total of ten home games this season, going 32-9 at The Grindhouse during the regular season, and 5-1 in the playoffs at home. Memphis has not lost consecutive home games all season long, and it would be almost foolish to think that they would do so in the Western Conference Finals.
CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.