A week ago it didn’t seem likely that I would be writing the good praises of the Memphis Grizzlies. It was even more unlikely that I would be singing the praises of Mike Miller, but here we are. After beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in a momentum-changing Game 5 win, the Grizzlies are in prime position to close out the series. It was an intense game that saw a Thunder comeback that should have been expected, but it was Mike Miller putting the dagger in OKC’s efforts early in the game.
Every three-point shot was like watching Shawn Michaels deliver a dose of Sweet Chin Music. It was unexpected, it was beautiful and it was heartbreaking for OKC enthusiasts across the board. When you think of all the things Memphis needs to disrupt OKC, it usually goes in a set order. Tony Allen playing incredible defense, Mike Conley tilting the line of really good and elite play-making, and the one-two punch of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. At no point does anyone ever take into consideration what happens if Mike Miller gets hot, and that is exactly what occurred last night.
His shooting aside, Miller was all over the court. His three steals and six rebounds while logging a workload of 31 minutes in the win didn’t look like they came from a player who has battled to stay healthy the past few seasons. In fact, for one game we saw the Mike Miller who captured the hearts of Memphis fans back in 2006 when he won Sixth Man of the Year. He played with fresh legs, allowed his teammates to work OKC the majority of the game and still obtained 21 points himself. His contributions up until this point have been serviceable if nothing else, but also in games where he played 25 minutes or less. It’s obvious that the Thunder are getting more than rattled at this point, but watching this series unfold, there is a question that isn’t being answered.
What if Memphis is just better?
The “Grit and Grind” narrative aside, Courtney Lee and Mike Miller allow the Grizzlies to operate in a way that they haven’t always been able to do. Spacing is just as important as dominating the post, and last night Miller was a master of time and space. The beautiful part of spacing isn’t just getting your offense in a position to shoot; it’s also knowing how to attack that space that you’ve created. For one night, Miller was the orchestrator of that for his team. He might very well have many more key moments in these playoffs, or he could just as easily lame out in Games 6 and 7, never to be heard from again.
Let’s not worry on what could be. Let’s just applaud Mike Miller for the Game 5 that was. For one, and possibly the most important, night of this first-round series, Mike Miller was legend.