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Photo from memphisflyer.com

Photo from memphisflyer.com

The Memphis Grizzlies entered the 2013 NBA Playoffs with a chip on their shoulder, and something to prove.  After a franchise best 56-26 record during the regular season, the Grizzlies found themselves as the 5th seed in the Western Conference.

Naturally, as fate would have it, their first round matchup was a repeat of the 2012 Playoffs, facing the Los Angeles Clippers.

Everything seemed to match up going into this series, down to the season records.  Los Angeles ended up with home court advantage due to a better season record against each other.

The Clippers didn’t disappoint coming out of the gates.  Through the first two games, the Clippers won both at home, essentially dominating the Grizzlies, despite a close call in Game 2.  They dominated in every facet of the game, from tempo all the way to rebounding.

In fact, it was so bad for the Grizzlies, it prompted me to write this.

Almost as if every player read what I wrote, the Grizzlies came out the next four games and thoroughly dominated the Clippers.  Everything from points in the paint, to rebounding and controlling the tempo, the Grizzlies made the Clippers struggle.

Everything came to a head in Game 6, when technical fouls were the norm against the Clippers, and even cost Chris Paul in the fourth quarter, when he was tossed from the game following his second tech.

Over that four game stretch, the Grizzlies failed to win by less than double digits.  Their “Grit N Grind” attitude was in full gear.  Nothing could stop them from moving on past the first round for only the second time in franchise history.

What is the gift for the Grizzlies for their effort?  It’s the same matchup they had the last time they made it past the first round in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This series will be much different, however.  The Thunder are down maybe the second best player on the team after Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook.  Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus in the Game 4 loss to the Houston Rockets in their round one matchup.

That honestly doesn’t make the Thunder that less of a daunting task to overcome.  There still is the task of stopping Kevin Durant, whom the Grizzlies really don’t have a great matchup for.

Game 6 for the Thunder against the Rockets was the breaking out party for Kevin Martin in the playoffs, who hit for 25 points on 7-13 shooting, including 3-5 from long range.  Reggie Jackson also hit for 17 points for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City may also be one of the only teams that can match Memphis on the interior with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.  Can Perkins keep a level head long enough in the series to stay on the floor and out of trouble?  That will be one telling factor.

The Thunder also have playoff veteran Derek Fisher, who helped lead the Lakers to 4 titles during the 2000’s.  This is no easy task for the Grizzlies.

It will take every bit of “Grit N Grind” and “Believe Memphis” the Grizzlies can muster if they want to make the franchise’s first ever run to the Western Conference Finals.  This should be a hard fought series.

I have said over the last few days that the winner of the Clippers-Grizzlies series could potentially make a run all the way to the NBA Finals.  That opinion of mine still has not wavered.  With Oklahoma City down Russell Westbrook, San Antonio getting older, and Golden State with a lack of any interior option, the Grizzlies have as good a shot of anyone left in the West to make the Finals.

Sick back Grizzlies fans.  Relish in what you have for the next day.  That is all you get.  Starting Sunday in Oklahoma City, things really heat up.  Nothing is easy in the NBA; just look at round 1 for many teams.  If the franchise really wants to be elite, however, they need to push past the Thunder, and make some noise of their own.