The Memphis Grizzlies’ chances of making it into the postseason are not as golden as they may appear. While the Grizzlies currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns are very close to taking that last playoff spot away from them. The Minnesota Timberwolves are still in the playoff hunt as well, as a very strong winning streak to end the season for the Timberwolves could be enough to take the Grizzlies’ playoff spot.
However, the true factor that may cause the Grizzlies to lose their playoff position is the team itself. The team seems to not be playing at the same level they have been over the past month. Each of their past three games featured performances that, as a whole, left a lot to be desired.
Take the Grizzlies’ victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, for instance. The Grizzlies went on a 9-0 run in the last 3:22 of the game to win 90-88. However, the Grizzlies put themselves in a position where they needed this late game comeback to win the game. Throughout the second half, the Pelicans kept the majority of the nine point lead they had after halftime. Despite the Pelican’s own poor play on offense, they were able to hold the Grizzlies to a field goal percentage of just 43.8% and to a very poor 22.2% beyond the arc. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evens didn’t even play in the game due to illness, and Jrue Holiday has been out of action due to a stress fracture in his right tibia. With the exception of Anthony Davis, these are the Pelican’s top three players, and with all of them out of action, the Grizzlies should have had an easy victory. However, this obviously wasn’t the case, and while it did show that the Grizzlies are able to make late game comebacks, it also showed that it is pretty hard for the Grizzlies to make necessary changes in order to make said comeback. And with an upcoming schedule that features some of of the top teams on defense like the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, the Grizzlies won’t have much time to make a comeback before the game becomes out of reach.
The Grizzlies continued their overall lackluster play in their loss to the Toronto Raptors, which ended with the Grizzlies falling apart down the stretch. While the majority of the game was competitive, as neither team had a strong lead for a long time for the first 3 quarters, the Grizzlies were completely outplayed in the last seven minutes of the game, where the Raptors were able to score 21 points. The Grizzlies were not able to respond to the Raptors, only putting up 7 points in that same timespan. A team should never be giving up 21 points in what is basically half of a quarter, especially a team that prides itself on defense like the Grizzlies do.
Finally, to quickly reflect on the most recent game against the Philidelphia 76ers, while the Grizzlies returned to their strong play on offense and defense, there should be small concerns raised due to the fact that the team turned over the ball 22 times. While the 76ers force their opponents to turn over the ball more than any other team at 16.5 per game, the Grizzlies average only 12.9 turnovers per game themselves, the third lowest average in the league, meaning that there is no excuse to turn over the ball that many times. This is especially scary because a lot of their opponents have strong enough offenses that they will be able to score consistently off of turnovers.
The Grizzlies have a tough week ahead of them. As stated earlier, they will be facing the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat on back to back days this Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22. These are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference and will pose a significant challenge for the Grizzlies. However, the Grizzlies can take comfort in two things. First, they are coming off of a win where, even if they had problems keeping control of the ball, got their shooting and defensive play back to the level it needs to be at in order to compete against the Heat and Pacers. Second, they will be facing the Utah Jazz, one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, on Wednesday, March 19. This will give the Grizzlies a chance to get a decisive win against the Jazz and enter into their games against the Pacers and Heat on a strong note. But if the past few games have demonstrated anything, it is that no matter how hot the Grizzlies may get, it won’t be hard to end any hot streak they get on. And with the playoffs getting closer and closer, the Grizzlies are going to have to return and stay on a hot streak in order to safely get into the postseason.