On Wednesday night in FedExForum, Memphis' Grizzlies clawed and clawed until the clock ran out in overtime. It took every ounce of that regular season-ending effort to beat the Dallas Mavericks and snatch the seventh seed in the NBA's Western Conference Playoffs.
With the clock frozen at 1.1 seconds left to play, starting point guard Mike Conley sank two free throws. The second gave the Grizzlies a one-point lead (101-105) that survived a Dallas last-second heave that came uncomfortably close to making Memphis an eighth seed.
What's the big deal about finishing seventh rather than eighth? Well, it means not having to play the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs that look and play like world-beaters as the grind to the NBA Finals is set to get underway later this week.
Of course, playing Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City will be no picnic. Still, most Memphians – including the thousands at Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday – are more than happy to take their chances against the Thunder rather than the Spurs.
"We were coming in to this game and treating it like a must-win game," Conley said. "They were doing the same. We both want to go into the playoffs with a win and a little more momentum. We expected it to be a dog fight and that's what it was."
Celebrating Grizz fans screamed as they filed out of the FedExForum. Others celebrate inside, hanging around for the jersey-signing ritual that was in full effect.
"For three months we've gone like crazy to get into the playoffs," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. "It would be easy for this game to have a letdown effect, which is kind of weird to say, bet we've been holding on very tight for a long time. To bounce back, there's a big difference. Getting 50 wins is something that you want on your resume as a player, and people remember those."
The final game of the season win clinched Memphis' third 50-win season. The Grizz also stretched their home winning streak to 14-games, which marks the longest home winning streak in franchise history.
Memphis outrebounded the Mavericks 48-39 and won the battle in the paint by 16 (58-42). There were 16 ties in the game and 15 lead changes.
Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 14 rebounds, finishing the regular season with his 47th double-double. Conley added 22 points and nine assists while Marc Gasol dropped in 19 points. Tony Allen came off the bench with 13 points.
"It was a big win for us," Randolph said. "It was a team win. We kept fighting and fighting. ... Everybody had a great game. Marc (Gasol), Mike (Conley), and everybody else contributed to it."
Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with a game-high 30 points while Monta Ellis scored 18 points for the Mavericks.
"That was playoff intensity," Nowitzki said. "It was a fun game to be a part of. It went back and forth. It was a fun game all the way down the stretch. We had enough chances."
The Grizzlies will start Round One of the Western Conference playoffs in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
"We know them very well," Allen said. "It is going to be a competition. We are going to play them one game at a time. We are all going to play together. We are going to pay attention to detail.
"We know those guys very well. They have great scorers. We have to play hard."