A strong first month of the new year has the Memphis Grizzlies on the verge of surpassing the .500 mark for only the second time this season.
The surging Grizzlies look to conclude an already successful January by continuing their recent home success against the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
A night after it overcame a 21-point deficit to win 99-94 at Philadelphia, Memphis (24-24) improved to 10-6 this month with a 107-93 victory over Washington on Saturday.
“We’ve been scratching and clawing, stuttering and starting,” said coach Lionel Hollins, who needs one victory to become the franchise’s all-time winningest coach with 96 wins.
The Grizzlies, winners in five of their last six, are .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 on Nov. 8. The only time Memphis was above .500 came after opening the season 2-1.
“We have to keep winning,” center Marc Gasol(notes) said. “We have to keep working. … It always can be better, but of course, it could be worse. We just have to travel forward and keep getting better.”
Memphis looks to improve to 3-0 since O.J. Mayo(notes) was suspended 10 games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy with a positive test. Averaging a disappointing 12.2 points, Mayo said he believes an energy drink he bought at a gas station contained the substance that led to his suspension.
Mayo wasn’t much of a factor when the Grizzlies set season lows for points and shooting percentage (36.3) in an 89-72 loss at Orlando on Nov. 15.
However, the Grizzlies have won two straight and seven of eight at home against the Magic (31-17). They’ve held Orlando to 89.6 points per contest during that span.
Though Memphis stars Zach Randolph(notes) and Rudy Gay(notes) were each held to nine points at Orlando in November, Randolph had 23 with 19 rebounds in a 99-94 victory in the teams’ last meeting in Memphis on Jan. 25, 2010.
Randolph recorded his 14th straight double-double with 24 points and 20 rebounds Saturday. The veteran forward has averaged 23.0 points and 14.9 boards during that stretch.
Magic star Dwight Howard(notes) had 18 points with 14 rebounds versus Memphis this season. He finished with 20 points and 20 boards in three quarters of work during Sunday’s 103-87 win over lowly Cleveland.
Howard, the top All-Star vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, has averaged 25.3 points and 16.7 rebounds his last six games. That included a 40-point effort in a loss at Chicago on Friday.
“We’re just kind of going into each game thinking that it’s a big game,” Anderson said. “We need to get a streak going again. We need to get some more confidence. I think it was key to have a big win, especially on a back-to-back night.”
Though point guard Jameer Nelson(notes) played 28 minutes against Cleveland despite leaving Friday’s loss with a strained knee, the Magic could be without backup Gilbert Arenas(notes) for a second straight game because of a left knee contusion.