History was made in Memphis on Wednesday night and it was at the expense of a team many people thought would return to the NBA Finals. BUt a devastating injury and a loss of team morale sunk the Oklahoma City Thunder and they’ve wound up on the wrong side of a 4-1 series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies who are making their first ever trip as a franchise to the Western Conference Finals.
The injury to Russell Westbrook seemed like it wouldn’t totally cripple the Thunder the way that it did, but it remains a testament as to how brutal a high profile injury can be on the biggest stage in the NBA. The real question people are asking themselves is would Memphis have still come out on top in the series had Westbrook been playing.
The answer is we’ll never know and all that matters is the Memphis Grizzlies are in the Western Conference Finals and no matter how many times you say it, that phrase just doesn’t seem real.
But real it is and the Grizzlies now have proven that not only can they reach the Conference Finals, but they may have a legitimate shot of representing the West in the NBA Finals.
A thing being highlighted right now is how much of an impact the Rudy Gay trade has had on the Grizzlies’ season from the time it happened until this Conference Finals berth. Mike Conley has now emerged as a budding star as the Grizzlies point guard and that has a lot to do with him seeing the ball a lot more now that Gay isn’t controlling the flow of the offense.
And clearly, Memphis is a better team for it.
What’s getting overlooked in the Grizzlies’ amazing, Cinderella-like run to the Conference Finals is the fact that they have played just nine postseason games this year – and they’ve won eight of them. That 8-1 record is the reason they’re where they are but it’s chemistry between guys like Conley and the rest of the Grizzlies offense that serves as the reason they’re hitting that mark.
Questions will now be asked of Kevin Durant, as he failed to be the superstar he’s been marketed as and couldn’t carry the Thunder on his own. While it’s a fringe stance to take, one could argue that this series loss has effectively popped Kevin Durant’s superstar bubble and the darling poster boy of the anti-LeBron James movement in the NBA needs to re-assess their position.
But this night belongs to the Grizzlies as history has been made and the team not many had making it past the Clippers in the first round are now four games away from their first ever trip to the NBA Finals.