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A look at the Western Conference Semifinals

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Believe, Memphis: A Look into the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals

As the Memphis Grizzlies get ready for the Western Conference Semifinals for the second time in three years, the Grizzlies got reacquainted with a few familiar faces on their playoff run, and like they say ‘revenge is so sweet’.
Last week, the Grizzlies edged out the Los Angeles Clippers in the First Round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

But first let’s go down memory lane, for it was just a year ago that the Clippers eliminated the Grizzlies in Game 7 of the 2012 opening round of the playoffs halting their run to the semifinals, and it now came time for a rematch.

The Grizzlies went down 0-2 in the first two games where they played uncharacteristic basketball in Game 1 in the fourth quarter allowing the Clippers to get the win. In Game 2, the Grizzlies picked up the grit but couldn’t grind it out, as Clippers All-Star Chris Paul banked in the game-winning basket with 0.1 seconds on the clock.
But then Memphis rediscovered their signature defense and rallied back to take the next four games; the first four-game winning streak in Grizzlies playoff history.

"We’re ambitious, and we just want to keep fighting," said Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.

The Grizzlies outrebounded the Clippers with dominant performances down low by Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and All-Star Zach Randolph and were complemented by strong play from the reserves and balanced production from the starting five.

"I’ve said that All-Star Weekend, [and] I said that during the season," said Clippers guard Chris Paul. "Their centers are pretty amazing - Z-Bo [Zach Randolph] in the inside and big fella Marc [Gasol], that’s another guard."

If you were a doubter, you probably thought Game 5 at STAPLES Center was a given win for the Clippers with the home court advantage provided by their crowd, however, the Griz picked up where they left off in Memphis with the same intensity and momentum. Memphis came out on top and stole Game 5 at the Staples Center with the consistent forces of Randolph (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Gasol (21 points, 8 rebounds). Mike Conley added 20 points and six assists, continuing his strong postseason play.

" They really execute their plays," said Clippers guard Chauncey Billups. "They run their plays all the way through. We know pretty much where they’re going. After the play is over, they dump it down. They’re just a really disciplined team."

The Grizzlies served the Clippers their first home loss of the series and took the series, 4 games to 2.

And, well, you know the rest – sweet revenge.

Now it is time for the Thunder and the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals, which we again have seen in the playoffs in the past.
It was the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals when Memphis and Oklahoma City were tied 3-3 going into Game 7.

The series was dramatic. It was unpredictable. It was anyone’s game.

But the Grizzlies were unable to contain the Thunder’s scoring and pick-and-roll duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant scored 39 points and Westbrook recorded his first playoff triple-double to beat the Grizzlies, 105-90.

But that was three years ago. It is a whole new story now.

The Grizzlies were 2-1 against the Thunder in the regular season with the lone loss being the day after the Grizzlies three-team trade that left the Grizzlies with a short-handed lineup since Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis were not cleared to play yet.

A little less than two months later, the Grizzlies fought back in an overtime win against the Thunder where Gasol tipped in the game-winning shot with 0.8 seconds left to edge out Oklahoma City, limiting the NBA’s highest scoring team to just 89 points.

Now for the Western Conference Semifinals, the Thunder are without Westbrook, lost for the playoffs with a torn meniscus, and the Memphis Grizzlies have a new look with a healthy bench and a well-established growing reputation of playing physical team basketball.

"I don’t know any other way [winning as a team]," said Gasol. "If anyone knows any other way, please let me know. That is the only way I know to win. I actually enjoy it a lot more as a team. It feels a lot better. I think if you aren’t like that you can play tennis or some other sport. I think when you win as a team it is just different."

After a tough loss in Game 1, the Grizzlies fought back in Oklahoma City to grab a Game 2 victory. The Series stands at 1-1.

"They play hard,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. "You know what they do. They grind it out, put it in the paint, feed their big guys and they are just going to do the little things."

As the Grizzlies continue down the path of payback victories, the Grizzlies will now step onto the hardwood with the Thunder to face off with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference on the Grizzlies home court.

So if you haven’t hopped on the trolley so far, get on board and “Believe, Memphis.”
After all, this is the Bluff City, and “We Don’t Bluff!”

Welcome to the 2013 NBA Western Conference Semifinals, Game 3.