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LOS ANGELES: The Memphis Grizzlies shocked the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs but there is little time to savour their first play-off series win in franchise history.
It is a tall order but Memphis hopes to top that when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder in a NBA quarter-final series which gets underway today in Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies and Thunder are two of the youngest and most-improved teams in the NBA.
Two years ago Memphis got off to a dismal 1-8 start after bringing in over-the-hill Allen Iverson and finished the season with just 24 wins.
Oklahoma City posted just three victories in their first 32 games and finished with just 23 wins that season -- their first since relocating from Seattle.
“We’re both bad teams that have risen up and become good teams,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “Our transformations started the same way, and they actually were ahead of us. We’re here, and they’re here.”
The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers square off against the Dallas Mavericks in another quarter-final matchup after both won their opening round series in six games.
One of the key matchups, when the series gets underway today at Staples Center arena, will be Lakers centre Pau Gasol against Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki of Germany.
Gasol and Nowitzki have faced each other numerous times over the past few seasons, including a pair of contests in the final six weeks of the regular season which were won by Los Angeles.
“They’ve got a bunch of guys that can score,” Nowitzki said. “That’s why they’re one of the deepest teams, especially the front line.
“Gasol is long. He’s been working on his mid-range shot. He can (shoot with) both hands, and he’s a great scorer on the block. So yeah, I’ve got to play both ends of the floor in this series. I’ve got to be ready.”
Gasol said: “We always have an advantage inside, as far as our size and our skills, (but) we just have to work to make it work.
“I expect a physical series, because that’s what it’s going to take. I don’t know about the chippiness, but I’m sure there’s going to be physical plays.”
It remains to be seen how effective Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant will be after spraining his left ankle in game four of the first round series.
Bryant dismissed talk of his ankle problems at Saturday’s practice but coach Phil Jackson said it was a real concern and it “still affects him a lot.”
“This is not going to go away any time soon,” Jackson said. “He’ll have a limited amount of practice, so we have to put him in the best positions to help.”
The veteran Boston Celtics and the all-star laden Miami Heat are tired of practising and ready to get down to business in an Eastern Conference matchup which begins today.
“We knew it was probably going to eventually happen at one point or another,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce told the Boston media about facing the Heat.