While their next game likely won’t prove as intense as their last one, the Memphis Grizzlies aren’t taking the opponent lightly, even if it is one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Grizzlies will seek a sixth consecutive win when they face the short-handed Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Memphis (35-18) has thrived while facing mostly sub-.500 opponents lately but had to hold off surging Toronto and former leading scorer Rudy Gay for an 88-82 win Wednesday.
“It was very much like a playoff game with the way the attitudes were and the emotions out there,” said guard Mike Conley who tied for the team with 17 points.
All-Star forward Zach Randolph had 17 points and 18 rebounds as the Grizzlies improved to 6-3 since trading Gay in a three-team deal Jan. 30.
“We’re finding our groove but we can’t stop,” Randolph said. “We’ve got to constantly push and get better because all these games are important. We’ve got to get ready for the next game Friday.”
In its next game, Memphis will face an Orlando team that’s 3-26 in its last 29 and 1-15 since Jan. 18. The Magic (15-39) have also dropped nine straight on the road for their longest such skid since losing a franchise-worst 16 in a row in Jan. 27-March 21, 2006.
Orlando, 2-9 all-time in Memphis and losers in four straight visits, likely won’t have Jameer Nelson available to help end that drought.
The point guard was diagnosed with a strained tendon in his left knee Thursday and is expected to be re-evaluated when Orlando returns from its two-game trip Saturday.
“I made a move and it was a weird feeling,” Nelson said after Wednesday’s 111-96 loss in Dallas. “My knee gave out and when it did, I fell and banged it on the ground so it was a double whammy.”
The Magic will also be without J.J. Redick who was among four players the team dealt away before Thursday’s trade deadline. The shooting guard, who is averaging career highs in points (15.1) and field goal percentage (45.0), was sent to Milwaukee along with Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith for Doron Lamb Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih
With a fuller roster, Orlando was having trouble slowing down opponents, giving up at least 104 points in each of its last five games.
The Magic have allowed the Grizzlies to reach the century mark once in the past eight visits to Memphis but are averaging 87.6 points during that stretch.
They scored just nine in the opening quarter in last season’s only matchup, an 88-76 loss in Memphis on April 26. Marc Gasol had a team-best 22 points for the Grizzlies and is averaging 18.5 on 65.0 percent shooting in his last four games against Orlando.
With Gasol’s help, Memphis will try to post its first four-game home win streak since a season-high five consecutive victories Nov. 23-Dec. 4.
The Grizzlies and Magic will meet for the final time this season March 3 in Orlando.