In big media companies, you are not allowed to write or speak about the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Nobody cares,” is the common refrain.
Well, it’s time to start caring, and we are going to bend over backwards to explain why that should be so.
First, the basketball part: The Grizzlies play in a division that is home to the NBA’s two hottest teams, the other being the Houston Rockets, who also have won seven straight games. Memphis pulled off an amazing comeback last night to keep their streak alive, rallying from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors 91-90.
Second, the non-basketball part.
If you attend a game in Memphis, you can exit the arena and walk two short blocks to Beale Street, where you can listen to outstanding live music seven nights a week while downing a 32-ounce coldie that’ll set you back a mere $2.
If you are lucky, the Grizzlies dance team will stop by your juke joint and join you for a beverage. And as my friend and colleague Frank Isola of the New York Daily News so astutely observed and tweeted last season, there is no better assemblage of fine young women representing an NBA team than the members of that particular dance team.
Third, if you have an off-night in Memphis, you can get in your rental car, drive south into Mississippi toward the Tunica Casino and Resort and motor through miles and miles of soybean fields before your senses awake. You can smell it a mile away: Fried chicken.
And if you stop at that chicken stand out in the middle of nowhere, you will eat what Colonel Sanders is secretly chowing down on in heaven. Man, it’s manna, I tell you.
But those last two items are not the reason you are here for your daily update.
So let’s get back to the basketball, and take a closer look at what the Grizzlies pulled off last night in Oakland. After scoring a mere 35 points in the first half while playing their third game in four nights, the Grizzlies erupted for 39 in the fourth quarter to defeat the Warriors 91-90, coming back from a 20-point deficit in the final 15 1/2 minutes.
“We were dead in the water in the first half. We had no answers,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “We don’t quit; we fight. We did that, and we were able to come back and get this win, which is a sweet win.”
It would be a disservice to the Rockets to continue this conversation without including them next. They play in a sprawling metropolis with no zoning rules, which is why you can drive to the far corners of the city and stumble upon one or two 50-story skyscrapers that would seem to have no business being there. For miles around, the next tallest buildings are two-story strip malls.
Back when Jeff Van Gundy was coaching the Rockets, I was working down in Houston and was stopped at a red light when who should pull up in the next lane? None other that JVG himself. “Worst traffic city in America,” Van Gundy observed. “New York has nothing on this place.”
Anyway, it was McHale appreciation night (NOT!) in Minneapolis last night, and the crowd booed McHale lustily during introductions before McHale got the last laugh with a 107-92 victory over the Timberwolves, who got 39 points from Kevin Love (5-for-5 on 3-pointers) and 12 more assists from Ricky Rubio.
The Rockets’ seven-game winning streak has only moved them into fourth-place in the Southwest Division, where they still trail the Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio.
The Spurs were only 1-6 entering their game against the lowly Hornets, but Tim Duncan turned back the clock and scored a season-high 28 points — the final two coming from just inside the foul line off an inbounds play for the game-winning points with 1.4 seconds left. “It was a mix of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, a kind of sky-hook, and we’ll take it,” Tony Parker said of Duncan’s 13-foot game-winner over New Orleans Hornets center Emeka Okafor. Parker added 20 points and a career-high 17 assists.