Bobcats-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

Having returned to their top-ranked defensive form, the Memphis Grizzlies are making a run at home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The low-scoring Charlotte Bobcats, mired in a lengthy road losing streak, seem unlikely to stand in their way.

The Grizzlies look to win for the sixth time in seven games and move closer to the third seed in the Western Conference when they host the NBA-worst Bobcats on Tuesday night.

After having its four-game winning streak snapped, Memphis got back on track Sunday when Mike Conley scored 25 points and had the go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left in an 89-87 victory at Sacramento.

Quincy Pondexter tied his career high with 17 points for the Grizzlies (52-25), who have set a franchise record for victories while clinching their third straight playoff berth.

They improved to 19-7 following the All-Star break.

"We're gearing up for the playoffs,'' Pondexter said. "We're happy with this win. This is the NBA. Getting any win is tough in this league. We executed down the stretch and grinded this one out.''

Memphis, in fifth place in the West, will be trying to move within a half-game of third-seeded Denver. The Los Angeles Clippers, the Pacific Division champions, are in fourth.

The Grizzlies would certainly like to finish in the top four and have home-court advantage for at least the first round. They have won 12 straight in Memphis and are 30-8 there.

A renewed focus on the defensive end has keyed the recent run. The Grizzlies, tops in the NBA in scoring defense at 89.7 points per game, surrendered 107.0 along with 50.9 shooting during a three-game stretch March 23-27.

Since then, they've limited opponents to 86.5 and 42.6 in six contests.

Memphis held the Kings to 35.8 percent from the field Sunday, and Marc Gasol came through with a pair of blocked shots in the final seven seconds to preserve the victory.

The Grizzlies should have a good chance to extend that defensive dominance against a Charlotte team that's averaged 88.5 points and 41.7 percent shooting during a 12-game road losing streak.

The Bobcats dropped their second in a row Saturday, 105-96 to Brooklyn. Ben Gordon scored 27 points and Gerald Henderson had 22.

While it hasn't translated into road victories, Charlotte (18-59) has played better in its last 14 games, going 5-9.

"We're carrying a huge amount of losses and this last month we've been unbelievable," coach Mike Dunlap said. "It's staying at the game."

Henderson has given the team a lift with 23.1 points and 50.5 percent shooting in his last seven contests.

In contrast, guard Kemba Walker has gone 6 for 24 in his past two games. He's made 11 for 32 from the field in two career matchups with the Grizzlies.

Charlotte, last in the NBA with a 42.2 field-goal percentage, was held to 37.6 in a 94-87 loss to Memphis on Nov. 17.

Conley led the Grizzlies with 20 points in that contest, and he's averaged 21.5 points in his last eight games.

Zach Randolph had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the November win, but he's averaged 12.5 points and 42.9 percent shooting in his past eight contests.

The Grizzlies have won three of the last four overall meetings and five of seven at home.