They call it the Grind House.
Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis came up with big shot after big shot but came up inches short in overtime against the relentless Grizzlies in as Memphis clinched the seventh seed ahead of the Mavericks.
Zach Randolph found success amidst foul trouble against a frontline that lacks the hulking presence to slow down his vast frame once he establishes himself in the post. Time and again Randolph twisted and turned his way under the rim for critical baskets.
For their part, the Mavericks had the Grizzlies on the ropes. On the ropes, however, is where Memphis loves to find themselves. They consider it the ultimate test of character and resolve. How they respond to those tests sets the tone for this team.
Basketball can lend itself to incredible swings in narrative in minuscule periods of time.
Take the final few moments of the fourth quarter for example.
Monta Ellis darted into the lane and forced up a horrible shot that Marc Gasol could block without leaving the ground. The ball came right back to Ellis.
He reloaded, coming in from the right and forcing up yet another bad shot, this time over the closely contesting Tony Allen. This one clanked off iron. Memphis took the rebound.
Mike Conley took off far too quickly, getting caught out and charging through Devin Harris, turning the ball immediately back to Dallas.
Cue Monta Ellis, part three.
The electric guard didn’t wait to be given another chance, sinking a triple to tie the game at 93 with 13 seconds to play.
The Grizzlies never truly got a good look out of their timeout. Randolph found himself muscled out of the post almost to the three-point line, settling for a pull-up jumper that hit the rim before going out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining. One bad pass later and we had overtime.
The mantra ‘basketball is a game of runs’ more than proved it’s usefulness in overtime. Both sides had spells of dominance and went on small scoring runs, with Memphis’ run coming at just the right time.
Mike Conley scored on the opening possession on a beautifully crafted set, nailing his shot behind a Gasol pin-down screen.
Monta Ellis would embark on his own personal 5-0 run after scores by Marc Gasol and Shawn Marion. Ellis’ points left Dallas ahead 102-98 with just two minutes of the period to play.
These situations are nothing new to Memphis. They’ve been on both sides of the comebacks before and knew what they had to do. The defense clamped down, the offensive rebounds stopped falling to Dallas and Zach Randolph went to work inside, scoring tightly contested layups after Tony Allen somehow found the big man amid three bodies.
The assist would be the beginning of Memphis, and Allen’s, final burst of the game. Allen charged down the lane, drawing contact and a foul while finishing a tough layup to send FedExForum into raptures.
Dirk Nowitzki would hit a three with nobody within twenty feet of him as Memphis forgot he was on the court before Allen again scored, with Conley hitting a pair of free-throws to leave Dallas needing something absurd to happen with just a second left to play.
The final buzzer sounded on the last meaningful game of the NBA regular season. Memphis’ win earns them the right to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round as the seventh seed, while Dallas must journey to the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs for it’s opening round match-up.