Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Countdown: The Season's Top 10 Moments

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 2:26 PM

The Grizzlies' playoff match-up will be determined tonight and will be followed — either tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning — by a lengthy series breakdown on this site. But, for now, let's put a close to our regular season coverage with this, a clip-laden countdown of the season's 10 best moments:

10. Marc Gasol From Deep
I wanted to use the play from late in the March 27th win over the Spurs, where Gasol hit a hook shot to put the team up four in the final minute then stormed down the sideline, hulking up and screaming. But I couldn't find a good clip of that. Instead, for a Gasol moment, I'll go with this end-of-half buzzer-beater during an April 1st win at New Orleans. This was the rare three-pointer that was a power play, Gasol using his strength to push his way through a Hornets defender and bury the — admittedly lucky — shot. Bonus points for O.J. Mayo running over to the prostrate Gasol and pounding him on the chest.


9. Rudy Ties it Up at Phoenix:
A season turning point. The Grizzlies came into the game 8-14, what would turn out to be a season-worst six games under .500. Their previous trip to Phoenix had been one of the most bruising and unlikely losses in franchise history. And they lost a five-point lead with under four minutes to go, eventually finding themselves down three with two seconds to play, inbounding the ball on the sideline. Rudy's clutch corner three sent the game to overtime, where the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 12-6 to win it. This was the moment of ascent for the 2010-2011 Grizzlies.

8. The First Tony Allen Game
This was an odd one. The Grizzlies had just flown home following a big road win against the Los Angeles Lakers. But, as we would find out soon after this January 4th win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, O.J. Mayo wasn't missing because of "bronchitis" (the official excuse) but rather because teammate Tony Allen had punched him in the face following a card-game dispute on the team plane. And yet, in the immediate aftermath of what could have been a disastrous turn, Allen instead had his breakout game for the Grizzlies — the performance that finally solidified him as a lineup fixture.

This was a game in which Allen missed a handful of lay-ups and had a couple of bad dribbling miscues, and yet, by the end of the game, he was hitting multiple threes and doing his version of the Antoine Walker shimmy. But as good as Allen's offense was, it was this dramatic block — watch where Allen starts on the play — that was his highlight of the night, and perhaps the play that convinced him to start dunking the ball again after missing so many lay-ups.


7. Mike Conley Goes Large, Rudy Gay Blocks Artest, the Lakers Fall
Mike Conley scored a season-high 28 points in this 98-96 home victory over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on November 30th. But the hero at the end was Rudy Gay, who blocked Ron Artest's attempted game-winner at the buzzer — the last of Gay's career-high six blocks on the game.


6. Z-Bo Beats the Mavs
Rudy Gay had converted three buzzer-beaters earlier in the season, but he wasn't available on March 6th at Dallas, when the Grizzlies found themselves down 103-102 with the ball and with only three seconds left on the clock. With Gay gone, it was Zach Randolph who got the call, sinking a rainbow baseline jumper to win the game — and the season series against the division rival Mavericks.



5. Zach Randolph: Player of the Month
Zach Randolph became the first player in franchise history to win a conference Player of the Month award when he took home the Western Conference honors for January. Couldn't find a clip specific to this, but this nice NBATV mini-feature on Randolph's season is a fitting stand-in:


4. "No! It's Rudy Gay! Not this guy!"
Rudy Gay's third buzzer-beater of the season, on January 24th, at Toronto, sank the Raptors — and gifted us with this all-time classic clip:


3. Rudy Gay Drops the Bomb on Miami
After a 4-9 start, with important players showing up late to practice and getting benched as a result, turmoil and doubt were threatening to destroy the Grizzlies' season. But, with five seconds left and the game tied, Rudy Gay drove to the baseline, elevated over Lebron James, and tossed his team a life raft. Shot of the year.


2. Griz Clinch Playoffs
The Grizzlies clinch their first playoff birth since 2006. Tony Allen is on his knees at center court, watching Zach Randolph make the clinching free throws. The view from the up top:


1. Grit, Grind: The Second Tony Allen Game
If The First Tony Allen Game solidified Allen's place in the team's rotation, this Second Tony Allen Game cemented his evolution into a Memphis hoops folk hero. The Grizzlies had no business winning this February 8th game at Oklahoma City. It was the second night of back-to-back games, on the road, against an elite team, after having played poorly the night before. And the Grizzlies were playing without both Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo. But Allen, returning to the state where he played his college ball, would not be denied. He scored a season-high 27 points on only 12 field-goal attempts, to go with five steals, three blocks, zero turnovers, and a brilliant late-game defensive possession guarding Kevin Durant.

Then, he capped off an unbelievable night with the most memorable post-game interview in team history. From this we got the "Grit Grind" than launched several hundred T-shirts, as well as the fearsomely funny reference to the threats posed by the "Ibakas of the World." But what puts this over the top for me are the teammate interactions that keep interrupting Allen's moment. First there's the mutual acknowledgment between Allen and passing-by Zach Randolph, whom Allen credits at every opportunity. Even better is the small moment a few seconds later, when Marc Gasol walks over and silently touches his head to Allen's in gratitude and affection.

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