Grizz Fighting for Division Title, Homecourt

Posted on April 28, 2015

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division title

BY: TRAVIS NAUERT

The regular season is winding down, and the Grizzlies are trending in the same direction. After strong wins against the Trailblazers and Clippers out of the All Star break, the team is struggling to produce results against playoff teams.

Most recently, the Cavaliers and Warriors put on clinics posting 20+ point blowouts. The final scores made those games appear closer than they were. Slow defensive rotations led to one Timofey Mozgov rim-rocker and Splash Bros three after another. These somewhat sub-par performances have left the Grizzlies relinquishing control of the 2 seed though the 2 seed was never firmly secure given the strength of schedule down the stretch.

On Sunday, Houston beat Washington and leapfrogged Memphis in the standings after the Grizzlies fell in San Antonio. Despite an improved performance, the Grizzlies simply weren’t good enough. For those thinking about tiebreakers, the season series between the Grizzlies and Rockets is tied 2-2. If they were to finish the season with identical records, the better division record would claim the higher seed, and at this point, the division title. Memphis stands at 8-7 in Southwest competition, while Houston is even at 6-6. Only one division game remains for the Grizz, that being on April 8th against New Orleans in FedEx Forum. Houston, on the other hand, has 4 remaining; one against Dallas, two versus San Antonio, and one against New Orleans.

Predicting seeding and match-ups seems futile as the standings are bound to change on a nightly basis. The only things we do know are the following:

The Grizzlies will be in the playoffs. A win against the Knicks locked Memphis into the playoff picture for the fifth consecutive year.
Golden State has clinched the top seed in the West. The Grizzlies play the Warriors in the second to last game of the year and Steve Kerr may have pulled the plug on his starters by that point. This could gift wrap a win for the Grizz two nights after a showdown with the Clippers in LA.
Likely first round opponents include Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. Oklahoma City could move up from the 8 spot, but would probably need help from other teams.
Memphis needs to do everything it can to secure the 2 seed, and hope for a first round match-up with anyone but San Antonio. Even though Tony Allen missed the game on Sunday, it is no secret that the Spurs own the Grizz. There are statistics that confirm this, but they are depressing, and therefore will not be found in this article.
Despite the tight race in the West, Golden State and San Antonio have to be considered favorites to reach the Finals. Injuries and match-ups could change this outlook, but for now, the Spurs and Warriors have enough firepower and then some to be playing in June.

The Grizzlies do have some things going for them, believe it or not. There are no major health issues. Courtney Lee is searching for his shot after a wrist injury, and Tony Allen’s hamstring could cause him to miss some games before the playoffs roll around, but one has to believe Dave Joerger will err on the side of caution.

Additionally, the Grizz are still well in position to win their first ever division title and have the ability to secure home court advantage in the first and second rounds. The early season run still has Memphis in great position despite a weak stretch after the All Star break.

Furthermore, the optimists may foresee a scenario not unlike the NFL Playoffs, where a team limps into the postseason and gels at the right time. The Grizzlies have the experience and the defensive prowess to gain traction when things matter most. Defense and experience travel well, while hot shooting can fall in and out of form.

Dissatisfaction surrounding Jeff Green appears to have cooled. It is clear Green can bring an element to the Grizzlies that they haven’t had since shipping Rudy Gay to Toronto. Spin that any way you want, but he attacks the rim with malice and can draw fouls. If he gets hot from three, then the Grizzlies will be hard to beat.

This year, things have never looked worse for the Grizzlies. Yet, it is in times like these that the Grizz have made their name in the NBA. No matter what the standings look like heading into the playoffs, expect the Grizzlies to find a way to advance to the second round and deeper. Zach Randolph played like a man possessed against the Spurs, and Mike Conley, when healthy, can lead this team against any level of competition. Expect Memphis in May to be a special time once again.

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Posted in: Grizzlies, Sports