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The Memphis Grizzlies are the No. 2 seed again. Holding off Sacramento won't be easy

On Jan. 17, the Memphis Grizzlies were tied with the Denver Nuggets for the best record in the Western Conference. Injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke, road struggles, late-game collapses and Ja Morant's absence have the Grizzlies in a different position.

The Denver Nuggets are comfortably 4.5 games ahead of the Grizzlies, and now Memphis (41-26) must hold off the Sacramento Kings for the No. 2 seed.

Sacramento (40-27) first surpassed the Grizzlies for the No. 2 seed on March 8. Five days later, the Grizzlies jumped back in front after defeating the Dallas Mavericks a couple hours before the Kings fell to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.

The Grizzlies have a one-game lead over the Kings, but Sacramento holds the tiebreaker.

With Morant away from the team, Adams out and Dillon Brooks a couple of technical foul whistles away each game from accumulated suspensions, now is the time to examine if the Grizzlies can hold off the competition for the No. 2 seed in the West.

In most seasons, the seeding may not be as important. Remember, just last year the Grizzlies outraced the Golden State Warriors for the No. 2 seed, but it was the Warriors who won the Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

This season feels different because so many Western Conference teams are dominant at home. All of the current top 13 seeds in the West are at least two games above .500 when playing on their home floor, and eight are at least seven games better than .500. And when it comes to playing on the road, 12 of the top 13 are .500 or worse.

If Memphis were the No. 3 seed today, it would be looking at a matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers or Golden State. The Warriors are currently the 5-seed over the Clippers despite having identical records, but they will play one more time this season. Memphis is a combined 1-3 against those teams.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are all separated by one game in the fight for the seventh spot. Memphis is 9-7 this season against those five teams.

A lot can still happen with movement in the standings, but here is a look at the Grizzlies' chances of keeping the No. 2 seed.

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Holding off the Sacramento Kings

It likely will be a race until the end between the Kings and Grizzlies. Since the two foes split their four meetings this season, the tiebreaker will come down to conference record, and Sacramento is currently in the driver's seat. The Kings are 27-14 against the Western Conference, and Memphis is 23-19.

If the Grizzlies want to outlast the Kings, winning more games for the remainder of the season is the simplest option. While the Sacramento's schedule isn't the toughest slate, Memphis has the second-easiest schedule remaining in the NBA, according to Tankathon.

Sacramento's remaining schedule ranks 14th in the league, with games against the Boston Celtics, Nuggets, Warriors and Phoenix Suns left. Only two of the next eight Grizzlies games will come against teams with a record better than .500.

Who else to keep an eye on

Last week, it felt like the Phoenix Suns were creeping into the conversation with the Grizzlies and Kings, but an injury to Kevin Durant may have hurt their chances. The Suns (37-31) also have a tiebreaker over Memphis, but their Monday loss to the Warriors knocked them 4.5 games behind Memphis.

Speaking of 4.5 back, that's the same distance as the Grizzlies from the Nuggets. One small difference is that Memphis doesn't own the tiebreaker since Denver won two of the three regular-season meetings. The Nuggets have lost three games in a row, but it's still highly unlikely that Memphis climbs that mountain.

In the end, the No. 2 seed will likely come down to the Kings and Grizzlies.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings are in NBA playoff standings race