When the NBA season starts to wind down, each game becomes more and more important for teams still fighting to make the playoffs to win. Every win becomes more beneficial and every loss becomes more devastating. This was perfectly reflected in the Memphis Grizzlies’ extended weekend. Two losses almost proved to be the beginning of the end for the Grizzlies’ playoff hopes, but one win brought the team back to 7th place in the Western Conference, just where they were before the weekend began.
The Grizzlies entered Oracle Arena last Friday in a great position. The Grizzles had won 14 of their 19 games since the All-Star break, and with a win against the Golden State Warriors, the Grizzlies would have become the 6th seeded team in the Western Conference. Earning the 6th seed would of made sure that the Grizzlies avoided both the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, two teams that would be very difficult for the Grizzlies to defeat in a best of seven series. Unfortunately, in a game where neither team held a big lead until the end, the Warriors went on a 14-0 run in the last 3:05 of the game to catch up to the Grizzlies and win 93-100. This game
The Grizzlies followed that loss up with another one last Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming into the game, the Grizzlies had won both of their previous encounters with the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers were entering this game hoping to end the month of March on a positive note, as the team had gone 7-9 in March. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers and, unfortunately for the Grizzlies, LaMarcus Aldridge, star power forward for the Trail Blazers, had recently returned from a lower back contusion that had sidelined him for a couple of weeks. He made sure the Grizzlies suffered by scoring 28 points against the Grizzlies’ very strong defense. Aldridge’s play, along with a 14-4 run in the first half of the second quarter, was too much for the Grizzlies to overcome, and they would trail by double digits up until the last 1:12 of the game, where James Johnson’s three point shot brought the Trail Blazer’s lead down to single digits. However, this came too late in the game for the Grizzlies to efficiently make a comeback, losing the game 98-105, and falling to ninth place in the Western Conference in the process.
After two tough losses, the Grizzlies went into the Pepsi Center in Denver hoping to come out with a victory, which would help the team regain the 8th seed in the playoffs. Thankfully, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Courtney Lee combined for a total of 58 points and helped the Grizzlies defeat the Nuggets. However, the Nuggets were very close to completing a comeback that would of led to yet another fourth quarter collapse for the Grizzlies, as the lead that they held for nearly the entire game was reduced to only two points by the end of the game.
The Grizzlies didn’t seem to be the same team they have been since the All-Star break in all of these games. They gave up a field goal percentage of 50.2% over these three games, which, even if these are three of the better teams on offense in the NBA, isn’t justifiable from one of the best defenses in the league. The Grizzlies can’t afford to give up this high of a percentage of shots, as their own offense isn’t anything to write home about. Their team relies on strong defensive play to win games, and when that is missing, there is very little the Grizzlies can do to win.
As of right now, the Grizzlies have only eight games remaining in the season. Currently, they hold the 7th seed in the Western Conference. However, the Phoenix Suns have the same record as the Grizzlies, and the Dallas Mavericks match the Grizzlies in wins. The good news is that the Grizzlies, who have won all three of their games against the Suns this season thus far, would have the tiebreaker against the Suns if they ended the season with the same record. The bad news is that the Mavericks, who have won all three of their own games so far against the Grizzlies, would win a tiebreaker between the two teams. The Grizzlies will have a chance to face both the Suns and the Mavericks respectively in their last two games of the season. And while the likelihood that these will be games the team must win in order to make the playoffs, the Grizzlies will certainly try to make sure that they have sealed a playoff spot before these games arrive.