Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Am I wrong or are the Grizzlies one of those teams that everyone wants to see succeed?
In today’s SI:AM:
🦅 Jalen Hurts on becoming an MVP candidate
⚾ Future Baseball Hall of Famers
🏈 Michigan’s terrible offseason
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The Grizzlies are on a roll
Roughly halfway through the regular season, the top teams in the NBA are beginning to separate themselves. In the East, the first-place Celtics have a four-game lead over the Bucks. In the West, the Nuggets are just a half game ahead of the Grizzlies, who are six games in front of the third-place Kings. Compare that to how the standings looked Dec. 27, when the 10th-place Warriors were within six games of first.
I picked Dec. 27, because that’s the last time the Grizzlies lost a game. Since then Memphis has run off 11 in a row, capped by last night’s hard-fought win over the Cavaliers. That ties the Grizzlies’ franchise record for longest winning streak.
Several of those wins came against subpar opposition (the Hornets, the Magic and two against the Spurs, for example), and while the Cavs, at 28–18, are having a great season, they were without Donovan Mitchell last night. Still, the Grizzlies showed impressive resilience in pulling off the victory. The lead changed hands nine times in the fourth quarter. The final time was on Steven Adams’s game-winning tip-in with 16 seconds left. The Cavs had one last shot, but Dillon Brooks played lockdown defense on Darius Garland and blocked his three-point attempt.
Memphis’s biggest test of the season is coming up, though. Beginning tomorrow night in Los Angeles, the Grizzlies will embark on a five-game road trip against the Lakers, Suns, Kings, Warriors and Timberwolves. It’s their longest road trip of the season, and the team knows it’s an important one.
“It’s huge,” Desmond Bane said after last night’s game. “I’m looking forward to it. A lot of good teams, a lot of good atmospheres. We’re getting another look at our rotation and full group of guys and take that mentality on the road.”
A college team headed in the wrong direction
It’s also becoming clearer which college hoops teams deserve to be taken seriously. Three women’s teams remain undefeated (Ohio State, LSU and South Carolina), while Purdue, Kansas and Houston (in various orders) have occupied the top three spots in the men’s AP poll for three straight weeks. And then there are the UConn men.
The Huskies, who spent five weeks ranked in the top five, blew a 14-point halftime lead against Seton Hall last night to lose their third in a row and fifth in their last six. Sure, the game was on the road, and head coach Dan Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young weren’t on the bench due to COVID-19, but a team with conference and national title aspirations should be able to hang on to a double-digit lead against a team that entered the game at 11–8.
UConn’s collapse shows just how unpredictable this season has been in men’s hoops. It’s shaping up to be a fascinating end to the regular season and, with any luck, a mad March.
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“I carry those scars on me everywhere I go,” Hurts says. “I began to find the thrill in it. I began to find the thrill in the hate, the disbelief, the doubt.”
TCU is reportedly hiring Arkansas’s Kendal Briles as its next offensive coordinator.
The top five…
… things I saw last night:
5. Nikola Jokić’s 31-point triple double as the Nuggets won their eighth straight.
4. This Twitter exchange between Stan Van Gundy and Kevin Durant.
3. LeBron James’s block followed by a fast-break dunk.
2. Steven Stamkos’s 500th career goal.
1. Lauri Markkanen’s poster dunk on Ivica Zubac.
On this day in 1981, which sports icon talked a man out of jumping off a ledge in Los Angeles?
- Magic Johnson
- Muhammad Ali
- Billie Jean King
- Ted Williams
Yesterday’s SIQ: On Jan. 18, 1896, which Big Ten team faced the University of Chicago in the first five-a-side game of college basketball?
Answer: Iowa. The game was played in Iowa City, with Chicago prevailing.
The game was not strictly speaking the first intercollegiate basketball game, but it was the first featuring five players on each side. Previously, basketball had been played with between seven and nine players on each team. It was Iowa physical education professor H.F. Kallenberg’s idea to reduce crowding on the floor by decreasing the number of players involved, and the experiment proved successful.
For years, it was believed that Geneva College in western Pennsylvania had been the first college team to play a basketball game when it faced a team from a nearby YMCA in April 1893. But in 2008, a historian at Vanderbilt found a newspaper article from February 1893 that said Vanderbilt had faced a YMCA team two months before Geneva’s game. That game featured nine players on each side.
The first game between two college teams was in February 1895 between Minnesota A&M and Hamline University. The game was played in the basement of the Hamline science building, with the visitors winning 9–3. Today, Hamline’s 1,800-seat gym has the words “Birthplace of Intercollegiate Basketball” painted behind one basket.
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