In perhaps two of the more surprising developments of the NBA playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies have just eliminated the first-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Indiana Pacers have surged through the first two rounds and are on the cusp of a conference finals berth. To the surprise of nobody, the Miami Heat clinched another conference finals appearance by eliminating the Chicago Bulls 4-1.
The Memphis Grizzlies have done it largely on the back of their excellent defense, anchored by Marc Gasol and the pitbull-like tenacity of Tony Allen. They flustered and frustrated a more talented Los Angeles Clippers team into giving up their home court advantage and closed them out when they needed to. Then, due to an untimely injury to Russell Westbrook against the Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have their backs against the wall, unable to overcome the stifling Grizzlies play. One has to wonder how different that series may have been had the Thunder retained James Harden. To understand just how lucky the Grizzlies were to have Russell Westbrook go down before their series, consider this: Russell Westbrook had never missed an NBA game in his 5 year career. It was almost surreal watching the Grizzlies close out the Thunder at home - but you could tell the Thunder were clearly exhausted.
Meanwhile in the East, a Pacers team has also been doing damage, first eliminating a dull and lifeless Atlanta Hawks team, and now pushing the overrated, aging New York Knicks to the edge. Not really a surprise to Nuggets fans, though - from our past experience, we knew that Melo, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton and JR Smith wouldn't be able to take a competent, healthy, defensive team in a seven-game series. Roy Hibbert and Paul George have been playing out of their minds...it will definitely be interesting to see how they match up with the Miami Heat in the east finals.