It would have been hard to imagine the Memphis Grizzlies thinking about making the playoffs after their slow start. But postseason basketball might be in the Grizzlies’ future if they can continue playing at their current level.
Memphis looks to win its fourth straight overall and push its franchise-record home winning streak to nine Monday when it faces a Phoenix Suns team that’s won once on the road since the end of November.
With 58 or more losses each of the last three seasons, the Grizzlies (21-18) looked to be on their way of another last-place finish after opening with eight losses in their first nine games. Memphis, though, has won 20 of 30 and is currently tied with New Orleans, one-half game behind Houston and Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“This is what the playoffs is all about, and we can do that - whenever we are going to do it,” coach Lionel Hollins said after Saturday’s 92-86 victory over San Antonio gave Memphis a franchise record for consecutive home wins. “I’m positive we’re going to do it one time.”
The Grizzlies have as many victories at home this season (14) as they did in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and they’re two from matching last season’s win total at FedEx Forum. Hollins, though, is more concerned about his team’s overall play, not a winning streak.
“Right now, we want to win,” said Hollins, an assistant for Phoenix from 1988-95. “Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know from eight, seven straight and all of that.
“We’re trying to establish ourselves as a quality team in this league.”
Zach Randolph(notes) is doing his best to help the Grizzlies achieve that status. Acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason, Randolph leads Memphis with 20.5 and 11.5 rebounds per game. He is one of two players - along with Toronto’s Chris Bosh(notes) - averaging more than 20 points and 10 boards on the season.
Randolph had 24 points and 13 rebounds in a 126-111 loss in Phoenix on Nov. 25, then posted 18 and 11 as the Grizzlies beat the Suns 128-103 on Jan. 2, also on the road.
That was one of just four home losses for Phoenix (24-17), which has not fared nearly as well on the road.
Since a 113-94 victory over Toronto on Nov. 29, the Suns have allowed 113.0 points per game while losing 10 of 11 road games. Saturday’s 125-99 defeat at Charlotte may have been one of the most embarrassing for Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 39 points and failed to reach 100 for the first time in 13 games.
Despite the team’s struggles, Amare Stoudemire continues to put up big numbers, averaging 22.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in his last six contests. Stoudemire, 27, became the youngest player in franchise history to reach 10,000 points in Saturday’s loss.
Steve Nash(notes), who is averaging 16.0 points and 13.7 assists while posting three straight double-doubles versus the Grizzlies, had nine points and six assists in Phoenix’s last visit to Memphis - a 106-89 loss on April 10.
The teams’ final regular-season meeting is Feb. 16 at FedEx Forum.