The Real Team Nobody Wants to FaceIt has been amusing during the past few weeks to hear various commentators suggest that "nobody wants to face" the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Early last season, the Grizzlies were a team on the rise with Lionel Hollins at the helm and Rudy Gay providing scoring punch from the small forward position to spread the floor for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol but after trading Gay and ditching Hollins the Grizzlies are a much weaker squad; the Grizzlies suffered some injuries this season that some people used as a convenient excuse for Memphis' declining winning percentage and the Grizzlies received a temporary bump when Gasol returned to the lineup but as the regular season concludes they have hardly been setting the world on fire--posting a 6-4 record in their last 10 games--and they are in a three way tie with Dallas and Phoenix for seventh-ninth place in the Western Conference.
In recent seasons, teams that "nobody wanted to face" did not make much noise in the playoffs:
- In 2006 nobody wanted to face the Sacramento Kings, who lost 4-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round; the Spurs had a 34 point win and a 22 point win during that series and only lost game three by one point.
- In 2011 nobody wanted to face the Portland Trailblazers, who lost 4-2 to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
- In 2012 nobody wanted to face the New York Knicks, who lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the first round. Miami blasted New York 100-67 in the first game and took a 3-0 lead before dropping game four 89-87.
In contrast, the real team that nobody wants to face--or at least that nobody with any sense would want to face--is the Spurs, who have an NBA-best 58-16 record, a .784 winning percentage that is the best in franchise history. Their leaders have championship pedigrees--Coach Gregg Popovich, two-time regular season MVP Tim Duncan, 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker and 2008 Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili--they made it to the NBA Finals last season and they are currently in the midst of a 18 game winning streak; only 12 other NBA squads have won at least 18 games in a row, including some of the greatest teams in pro basketball history (1967 76ers, 1972 Lakers, 1996 Bulls, 2000 Lakers).
The Grizzlies are flawed, mediocre and vulnerable; the Spurs are well-balanced, they have a tradition of excellence and they are accustomed to making long playoff runs. It should be obvious which team "nobody wants to face" and which team would not evoke much fear.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:33 PM