May 3, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates after making a three point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies during the fourth quarter in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies Top 3 Rivals

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Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Whether it’s Beatles-Stones, Ali-Frazier, Tangled-Frozen… (team Tangled) we are hooked and re-hooked year after year by the biggest rivalries in society and in sports.

For the Memphis Grizzlies, sustained relevancy also means the obligatory enemies and feuds created along the way. Whether it be in bad blood between opposing players, or in brutal reccurring playoff battles the Grizzlies have developed some of the most intense rivalries in the NBA.

So … who are they? Why are they? Let’s find out.


3. San Antonio Spurs 

The Grizzlies and Spurs have playoff history dating back to the days in The Pyramid.

PTI: Can we all pause and think back to how great of a fan experience The Pyramid was? Sure, the FedEx Forum was a necessary and impressive upgrade, but the atmosphere at the Pyramid was fantastic.

In 2004 the third-seeded Spurs swept the surprising sixth-seeded Grizzlies in a series dominated by familiar foes. Tim Duncan led the way with averages of 24 points and 10 rebounds on 58 percent shooting, and Tony Parker averaged 21 points and 8 assists.

In 2011 the Grizzlies returned to the playoffs as the confident eighth seed. The Spurs, though the best team in the West, were dealing with the elbow injury to Manu Ginobili that he sustained on the last night of the season as the Spurs made a push at the league’s best record.

With Manu not at 100 percent the Grizzlies took full advantage winning three of the first four games on its way to taking the series at home in a closeout Game 6.

As the two teams met again in the 2013 Western Conference Finals it was obvious San Antonio was looking to right the wrongs that derailed a title chance just two years prior.

The Grizzlies were coming off a five-game series win over Oklahoma City (more on this in a bit), and had some believing they were the favorites going into this series with the Spurs. But after blowout losses in Games 1 and 2 and a close loss at home in Game 3 it was clear who the superior team was.

The Spurs completed the sweep in Game 4 as Tony Parker emptied the chamber for 37 points and six assists on 71 percent shooting. Mercy.

This rivalry, though heated, has a sense of respect to it among Memphis fans. The fact that you can’t say that about the other two teams on this list leaves San Antonio at No. 3.


2. Los Angeles Clippers

Before the start of last season DeAndre Jordan was asked by the Los Angeles Times if the Lakers and Clippers had become a legitimate rivalry:

“I don’t think it’ll ever be a rivalry. You guys [in the media] want it to be, though,” Jordan said. “I would say Memphis more than the Lakers. I hate every other NBA team in the league. If anybody is our rival, I’d say Memphis.”

Here’s the thing — he’s exactly right.

The Grizzlies and Clippers general disdain for one another stems from the two first-round playoff meetings in both 2012 and 2013. The Clippers won a thrilling Game 7 in Memphis in 2012 and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers in six games in 2013.

Here’s a list of things to expect when these two teams play:

  1. Chris Paul will be doing Chris Paul things.
  2. For at least five minutes in the game the Grizzlies’ defense will make him look like Cliff Paul.
  3. Deandre will dunk on the entire area code.
  4. The Clippers will try to run, while the Grizzlies will try to slow things down.
  5. Doc will out coach Dave (which seems logical when you just consider those first names).
  6. Joey Crawford will be doing Joey Crawford things.
  7. And the best one of all — the inevitable “brawl” between Zach Randolph and “Captain Unwelcome” Blake Griffin.

The first point on this list should be enough for any breathing human to tune in, but watching Blake and Z-Bo go 12 rounds during a game is as must-see it gets. It also has to be an impossible matchup to officiate (see point No. 6).

The two couldn’t be more opposite in styles of play. On one hand you have a guy who can’t jump over a phone book and on the other, a guy who jumps over cars and has a television persona predicated on his cape. It’s a rivalry-fueling, blood bath-ensuing match made in heaven for NBA fans.


1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Not only are these two teams each other’s biggest rivals, but also one of the budding rivalries in the league.

In 2011, the Thunder won a hard-fought series in a winner-take-all Game 7 at home. Game 4 of this series is one of the highlights of this rivalry. A triple-overtime thriller that saw Oklahoma City take back home-court advantage behind huge performances from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

MVP of the series: Kevin Durant, 26 points and nine rebounds.

In 2013 the Grizzlies beat the Thunder in just five games. After losing game one in Oklahoma City the Grizzlies took the next four in a row to win and advance to the Western Conference Finals.

MVP of the series: Patrick Beverley, 0 points and 0 rebounds.

In 2014 the rivalry took a historic turn. These two teams gave us one of the best playoff series in recent NBA history. It was the first series ever that saw four games go into overtime.

In these four games the Grizzlies had clearly affected Oklahoma City’s desire to play up-tempo and in the open floor which exposed stretches of predictable offense. The result was back and forth, low scoring games that rarely saw big leads.

Memphis pulled out a thriller in Game 5 on the road and looked poised to close out the series at ‘The Grindhouse” in Game 6, but “Mr. Unreliable” had other plans that night. The pivotal moment in the game occurred when Zach Randolph got tangled up with Thunder center Steven Adams and threw a punch to Adams’ face resulting in a league-mandated suspension for Game 7.

The Thunder cruised to a 120-109 victory and began prepping for the Clippers.

MVP of the series: Russell Westbrook, 25 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists.

The Grizzlies and its fans were left with questions and plenty of time to ask them.

Was it really a punch?

Does Memphis steal a third game on the road if Randolph was eligible to play in Game 7 and win the series?

Does Zach Randolph playing cancel out Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in ‘Monstar Mode’?

These are the conversations that last all offseason long and drive home the fact that this rivalry isn’t one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets, but one of the premier rivalries in the entire league.

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