Friday night I went to the Grizzlies game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
As recently as two years ago, the stands would have been dominated by Kobe Bryant jersey and Laker pseudo-fans going crazy whenever the Lakers went on one of their patented runs. People liked the Grizzlies enough I guess, but the Lakers were the household name. They were the team that had what the Grizzlies wanted. They were the team that had earned and kept respect by being a contender virtually every, single year.
That was not the case on Black Friday. A rowdy crowd filled The Grindhouse and there were a few scattered Lakers jerseys, but the full house was almost universally behind the home team. What a difference two playoff appearances makes.
The Grizzlies followed suit and won a big game against a fellow Western Conference contender. Ho hum.
Of course, it’s easy to get up for the Lakers, or Celtics. I even found myself cheering a little louder and getting slightly more aggressive from where I was, and I was nowhere near the court. I can only imagine how Mike Conley Jr. or Rudy Gay must have felt, being on the same floor as the most famous NBA team of all time, led by one of the 10 greatest players ever.
The real challenge over the course of an NBA season isn’t getting up for big ticket games, it’s also showing that type of intensity and focus against the bottom-feeders as well. The Grizzlies will get to test that on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers enter tonight’s game against the Grizzlies at 3-10 and just 1-8 on the road. The Cavaliers not only have one of the best young players in the game on their team, but one of the best players period as well. Kyrie Irving, the second year point guard from Duke, is already an All-Star caliber player but he is out for at least two weeks with a broken finger. Irving was averaging 22.9 points and 5.6 assists before his injury.
In Irving’s absence, the Cavs’ best player is Anderson Varejao. Varejao leads the team in rebounding by pulling in 12 a night, and is also a good low post defender. 2012 lottery pick Dion Waiters is second on the team in scoring with 14.9 per night and has started every game. The selection of Waiters was kind of surprising at the time, but he’s shown that he has the type of ability to grown alongside Irving and give the Cavs a backcourt for the next 8-10 years.
Without Irving the Cavs won’t be able to keep up with the Grizzlies. Cleveland is a team that’s on their way up and will probably be a lot better at the end of the year than they are now, but the Grizzlies are playing as well as anyone in the league and Cleveland is without their best player.