The Memphis Grizzlies probably can't afford any more losses to teams with losing records if they want to earn homecourt advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
They also might not fare well without Marc Gasol.
With their All-Star center likely sidelined Tuesday night, the visiting Grizzlies look to bounce back from a frustrating defeat by trying to continue their recent success against a Minnesota Timberwolves team hoping to avoid an 11th straight loss.
Fifth in the West with six games remaining, Memphis (35-25) has a chance to catch the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers. However, the Grizzlies didn't help themselves by losing 88-75 at lowly New Orleans on Sunday.
Memphis shot 35.7 percent en route to its third-lowest scoring game of the season and second loss in three contests following a four-game winning streak.
"It was nasty, ugly,'' said coach Lionel Hollins, whose team committed 21 turnovers that resulted in 28 points. "You can't beat anybody scoring 75 points.''
The Grizzlies were held to 19 in the fourth quarter while playing the final 7:02 without Gasol. He had 11 points and seven rebounds before leaving with what turned out to be a bruised knee.
With Gasol averaging career highs of 15.0 points and 9.4 rebounds, Memphis obviously can't afford to lose its big man at the most important time of the season. The only game Gasol has missed in 2011-12 was the Grizzlies' 93-86 home victory over Minnesota on March 27.
Regardless of who is on the floor, Memphis must improve its play in order to make the most of a favorable schedule down the stretch. Five of its final six are against sub-.500 opponents.
"We have to bounce back and work on our next game," guard Tony Allen told the Grizzlies' official website. "The good teams find ways to get over these humps."
Memphis can start at Minnesota, where it's won three in a row. The Grizzlies have won seven straight overall in the series dating to a 109-102 road loss Feb. 6, 2010.
Rudy Gay, who has totaled 50 points on 17-of-33 shooting in the last two games, is averaging 21.8 in his last eight against the Timberwolves.
Though Memphis has won the three meetings this season with Minnesota (25-37) by seven points or fewer, the banged-up Timberwolves are mired in their longest losing streak since dropping the final 15 games of 2010-11.
Playing a third straight game without injured star Kevin Love (mild concussion and neck strain), Minnesota could not overcome a 32-13 first quarter-deficit in Monday's 111-88 loss at Indiana. J.J. Barea had 14 points with nine assists and rookie Derrick Williams added 13 with 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who also are without guards Luke Ridnour (ankle) and Ricky Rubio (knee).
"You have to come out and compete, and we didn't compete,'' said coach Rick Adelman, whose team has allowed 107.9 points per game during the skid. "It's a glaring problem. We know we have injuries, but we're better than that. We have to be ready to play.''
Barea has averaged 14.4 points and 9.3 assists in seven games since missing six in a row with a thigh injury.
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Marc Gasol