Despite Monday’s 110-89 rout at the hands of Dallas, the Grizzlies have won five of their last seven to maintain a strong hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Memphis leads ninth-place Minnesota by four games with five remaining and needs one victory or a Timberwolves loss to secure another trip to the postseason. The Grizzlies gained the tiebreaker over Minnesota by taking the season series 3-1.
After going 50-32 in 2003-04 to make the playoffs for the first time in team history, a second straight postseason appearance would continue an impressive turnaround for a franchise that never won more than 28 games over its first eight seasons prior to ’03-04.
The Grizzlies struggled against the Mavericks on Monday in part because Pau Gasol scored 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting and Mike Miller had only 13. The loss kicked off a tough four-game trip against playoff-bound teams, including Denver and San Antonio.
“We’ve got to win one of these as early as possible,” said center Lorenzen Wright, who had 18 points and seven rebounds Monday.
Memphis was held below 90 points for the first time in seven games as it fell to 38-22 since Fratello took over as coach in early December.
The Rockets have already clinched their second straight trip to the playoffs after failing to qualify from 2000-03, but find themselves in a tight battle for positioning with four games left.
Houston, which earned the berth with a victory over Phoenix on Saturday, is in sixth place in the West and has won its last three to move within one game of Sacramento. The Rockets hold a half-game lead over seventh-place Denver.
Tracy McGrady scored 38 points Monday, his second straight 30-point performance, to lead Houston to a 90-78 victory over Seattle.
“I am just comfortable and confident,” McGrady said after shooting 14-for-26 from the field and pulling down 11 rebounds. “There are no distractions. I block everything out and I’m focused.”
Houston would meet the Sonics in the first round of the playoffs if the current standings hold.
“Whoever we face in the playoffs, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be ready to play,” McGrady said.
Yao Ming had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Seattle again failed to clinch the Northwest Division and lost its fifth straight.
The Rockets, 21-3 when McGrady scores at least 30 points, open a four-game homestand that features matchups with Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and a season-ending meeting with the Sonics.
STANDINGS (through April 11): Grizzlies - 4th place, 13 GB, Southwest Division. Rockets - 3rd place, 10 1/2 GB, Southwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Grizzlies - Gasol, 18.0 ppg; Wright, 7.7 rpg; Jason Williams, 5.7 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 25.8 ppg and 5.6 apg; Yao, 8.4 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 17; Grizzlies, 99-80. At Memphis, Tenn., Stromile Swift scored 18 points and Williams added 16 to lift the Grizzlies to their ninth win in 10 games. McGrady had 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting, but Yao was held to eight points before fouling out after 24 minutes.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Grizzlies - 19-19 on the road; Rockets - 22-15 at home.