After falling short of surpassing the longest win streak in franchise history, the Memphis Grizzlies would appear to have a good chance to start another run.
The Grizzlies begin a string of five games against sub-.500 opponents as they visit the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.
Memphis had won eight in a row, matching the club record, before Friday’s 98-91 road loss to a Miami team which leads the Eastern Conference and is riding a 13-game win streak. The Grizzlies trailed by only one point with less than 30 seconds left.
“I have no problem with the game,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “We were right there. They just made a few more plays than we did down the stretch.”
Marc Gasol had 24 points - he’s averaging 19.5 with 10.3 rebounds over the past four games - but no teammate scored more than 14. Zach Randolph scored 14 despite hurting his left ankle on the game’s first possession, and postgame X-rays were reportedly negative.
Memphis (38-19) might not need Randolph to take care of Orlando (16-43), which is 4-30 since Dec. 20 and has dropped 16 of 18 at home. The Grizzlies’ ensuing schedule includes two matchups with slumping Portland sandwiched around games against last-place teams Cleveland and New Orleans.
Their win streak was built mainly by taking care of lackluster opponents, with six of the eight wins coming against teams with losing records. That includes an 88-82 home victory Feb. 22 over Orlando, which had seven players available because of injuries and a six-player trade with Milwaukee the previous day.
One of the players acquired in that deal which sent J.J. Redick to the Bucks is Tobias Harris who has averaged 20.0 points in four games off the bench in a Magic uniform. He had a career-high 27 in a 118-110 home loss to Houston on Friday, when Orlando was outscored 20-10 in the final five minutes.
“We went out there tonight and played a heck of a game, brought a lot of energy, and battled to the end of the game,” Harris said. “It just shows that as a team we’re making steps. … If we can just keep building on this, I think that would be good for us.”
Orlando has allowed an average of 114.8 points in its last five home games and 108.0 in its past 10 overall. Memphis, meanwhile, has given up an average of 83.6 over its last five contests and 85.8 in its past four on the road.
The Grizzlies have won three in a row over the Magic - all in Memphis - and have lost three straight at Orlando but haven’t visited since Nov. 15, 2010.
Gasol has averaged 20.0 points on 71.4 percent shooting during the Grizzlies’ three-game win streak in the series, including a team-best 19 points with 13 rebounds in last month’s matchup.
Magic rookie Maurice Harkless also scored 19 in that game and is averaging 14.6 points over his last seven, compared to 4.8 in his first 46 NBA contests.