Clippers-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers are both playing well as the season draws to a close - and they both have eyes on the same playoff spot.

With a week until the postseason begins, Memphis hosts Los Angeles on Saturday night in a crucial matchup between teams jockeying for home-court advantage in the first round.

The Grizzlies (54-25) are currently tied with the Nuggets for third place in the West, though Denver holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Clippers are right behind them at 53-26, but as a division champion they can't be seeded lower than fourth - though they'd still need a better record than the No. 5 seed to have home-court in that scenario.

Memphis has won seven of eight overall and 13 straight at home, and a victory Saturday would pull it within one game of matching the franchise record for consecutive home wins, a 15-game run bridging last season with this one.

They've made their mark all season long with defense, leading the league by allowing 89.4 points per game while also ranking among the leaders by holding opponents to 43.8 percent shooting. They've been especially stingy in three straight victories, holding teams to an average of 80.0 points on 34.9 percent shooting.

Houston came into Friday's game leading the league with 106.2 points per game, but Memphis held the Rockets to a season-low 31.1 percent shooting in an 82-78 win.

"All the guys (on our team) are just on the same page," guard Tony Allen told the league's official website after he and Tayshaun Prince helped hold James Harden to 0-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.

"When you've got five guys out there with the same goal, fighting hard and playing together, this is the outcome - you get the win."

The Clippers have won four in a row after a 96-93 victory at New Orleans on Friday that saw them chip away at a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Chris Paul helped engineer a late outburst, scoring eight of his 17 points in the final minute as Los Angeles scored on its final 11 possessions.

"We didn't have much energy tonight. That starts with me. I was dead early," said Paul, who also had 14 assists for his 30th double-double - the most among guards. "We've got to win games like this. We've got to win ugly games. It's not always going to be pretty."

Los Angeles likely won't be particularly thrilled to face such a strong defensive unit after going 7 for 26 from 3-point range Friday. The Grizzlies are also slightly healthier than they have been as both Jerryd Bayless (knee) and Darrell Arthur (back) returned at Houston after missing the previous two games.

The Clippers have won two of three in the season series, though the Grizzlies claimed a 96-85 victory in the most recent matchup on March 13 - just their second win in the last eight regular-season meetings.

Mike Conley is averaging 20.2 points on 54.5 percent shooting over his last six games but has struggled recently against the Clippers, averaging 9.2 points on 32.8 percent shooting in six regular-season games since the start of last season.

Memphis hasn't lost at FedExForum since a 96-90 defeat to Phoenix on Feb. 5.

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