New Orleans (35-28) at Memphis (34-28)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Thursday, Mar 3, 2011 Tipoff: 8:00 pm EST Fri Mar 4, 2011

The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t reached the playoffs in five years, but they’ve been surging toward an end to that streak of late.

The New Orleans Hornets have been in the postseason more recently, and they seem to be lacking that same intensity to return.

The Grizzlies can move past the struggling Hornets for seventh place in the Western Conference if they can earn their season-high sixth straight home win Friday night.

Memphis (34-28) defeated NBA-leading San Antonio 109-93 on Tuesday, giving it a split of the home-and-home series. The Grizzlies have won 15 of 20, moving them within a half-game of New Orleans (35-28).

Memphis, which improved to 21-8 at FedExForum, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005-06.

“We don’t want to get complacent or pat ourselves on the back yet,” said guard Tony Allen(notes), who scored 20 points and is averaging 15.6 in the last nine games - more than double his season average. “We’re just trying to get better each and every day.

“We look at the standings every day, and we definitely want to move up. … We want to try and win every game. No matter how the standings fluctuate, we’ve still got to play hard.”

The Grizzlies forced the Spurs to commit 22 turnovers that led to 30 points. Memphis leads the league with 16.8 turnovers forced per game and has averaged 18.7 in the last three.

“That’s what we do,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “Sometimes we’re all over the court and it looks like mayhem, but then we get a deflection and a steal. That’s what good teams do. You just have to keep making second and third efforts.”

While the Grizzlies are red-hot, New Orleans has lost three straight and 12 of 16. The Hornets fell 107-88 at New York on Wednesday in the second game of a five-game road trip, looking lackadaisical and uninspired throughout the contest.

“I just think we didn’t have the fight that we’ve had this year. I had to address some things after the game personally with some guys,” coach Monty Williams said. “I’m not going to get to the summer time and have stones that are unturned.

“I cannot stomach guys that go out there and don’t play with passion and go out there and play afraid. That’s what I saw tonight.”

He also saw All-Star point guard Chris Paul(notes) continue to struggle with his shooting. Paul scored a season-low four points and went 2 of 7 from the field against the Knicks, and he’s totaled 17 points the last three games while making seven of 29 shots.

Paul has shot poorly for nearly a month, making 34.7 percent from the floor and averaging 11.6 points in his last 11 games. He’s shooting 46.6 percent this season and 47.2 percent in his career.

Center Emeka Okafor’s(notes) numbers have also been down since he returned from an oblique strain that kept him out 10 games. He’s totaled 15 points in his last three contests and was a combined 3 for 12 from the field in the last two.

The Hornets defeated the Grizzlies 103-102 in overtime on the road Jan. 19, as Marcus Thornton(notes) helped break up an inbounds pass with 14 seconds left in the extra period and finished the ensuing fast break with a layup. Paul, who wound up with the ball after Thornton and Ariza tipped it on the decisive play, had 20 points and 12 assists.

New Orleans has won 16 of the last 20 meetings but lost the most recent matchup in Memphis 107-96 on April 2.

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Friday, Mar 4