The Memphis Grizzlies have missed the playoffs each of the last four years, but they have their sights set on improving their postseason position as the regular season draws to a close.
Memphis’ pursuit of a higher seed in the Western Conference continues Wednesday night when it hosts the struggling Golden State Warriors.
The Grizzlies (41-33) occupy eighth place in the West—two games ahead of ninth-place Houston, but just two games in back of sixth-place Portland and one behind seventh-place New Orleans. A 111-104 victory Sunday against NBA-leading San Antonio was Memphis’ fourth in five games, and may be an added boost of confidence down the stretch.
The Grizzlies have gone 10-7 since losing Rudy Gay(notes) to season-ending shoulder injury Feb. 15. Gay was averaging 19.8 points at the time of the injury, which happened the day key reserve O.J. Mayo(notes) returned from a 10-game suspension for using a banned substance.
Memphis continued to press forward, and is in position to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“To be a playoff team, you have to be tough. That’s requisite number one,” forward Shane Battier(notes) said. “I think we showed we are a tough team. I would like to play a little smarter. That’s the next step. But you have to have toughness, and there’s no doubt in this team’s toughness.”
Zach Randolph(notes) recorded his 50th double-double of the season against the Spurs, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Randolph is averaging a career-high 12.4 boards for the Grizzlies, who held off San Antonio’s fourth-quarter surge.
“This just shows how far we’ve come,” Randolph said. “Last year, we probably would have let the game slip. We would have put our heads down. This year, we just battle it out. We don’t put our head down. We keep our heads up and continue to battle.”
Point guard Mike Conley(notes) has started all 74 games while averaging a career-high 13.8 points. He had 18 points and 13 assists Nov. 3 in a 115-109 loss to Golden State, which will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
The Warriors (32-43) have lost seven of nine after falling 115-114 in overtime Tuesday against Oklahoma City.
Monta Ellis(notes), who scored 39 points in the November victory against Memphis, missed a jumper at the buzzer. He finished with 20 points on just 9 of 30 from the field and missed 12 shots in a row at one point.
“Sometimes good players may struggle the whole game and they have an ability to lock in late,” coach Keith Smart said. “We thought we got the right matchup.”
Golden State has allowed at least 100 points in its last nine games, and is 29th in the NBA giving up 106.1 points per game. Memphis is just 12-20 this season when scoring fewer than 100.
The Grizzlies have won four straight and nine of the last 12 against the Warriors in Memphis.