Grizzlies-Kings Preview

The Associated Press

With six games remaining, the Memphis Grizzlies can't afford to fall further behind in the fight for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

They should have a good chance to get back on track against the sinking Sacramento Kings.

The Grizzlies look to win for the fifth time in six games and stay within striking distance of a top-four seed Sunday night when the visit the Kings, losers of four straight at home.

Memphis (51-25) had won four in a row before falling 86-84 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Mike Conley scored a team-best 21 points, but missed a potential go-ahead jumper with five seconds left and a layup before the buzzer that would have tied it.

"We executed like we were supposed to, and tried to get a shot up,'' Conley said of the final sequence. "We tried to get some penetration and see what we can make out of it, but it just didn't work out.''

The fifth-place Grizzlies are right behind Denver for the third seed in the West, while the Clippers, the Pacific Division leaders, own the fourth seed.

Memphis, looking for its third win in four road games, can sweep the season series with Sacramento for the first time in the franchise's 17-year history.

The Grizzlies have defeated the Kings (27-49) three times by an average of 18.3 points and won the only meeting at Sacramento 113-81 on Jan. 7.

Conley has averaged 18.8 points in his last five games in this series. The point guard has scored 21.0 per game and made 13 for 28 from 3-point range in his past seven overall.

Center Marc Gasol has totaled 42 points and 22 rebounds in his last two games against the Kings.

Memphis hopes to bounce back offensively after going 3 of 14 from 3-point range and getting held scoreless for the final 2 1/2 minutes Friday.

While they rank near the bottom of the league at 93.7 points per game, the Grizzlies have averaged 109.8 and 50.7 percent shooting in their last eight versus Sacramento.

Continuing that trend might not be too difficult against a Kings team that has allowed 112.3 points during its home skid.

Sacramento gave up 41 points in the second quarter and 99 over the final three periods in dropping its third straight Friday, 117-108 to Dallas.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento's leading scorer and rebounder, did not start for the first time this season. He entered in the second quarter and finished with six points in nine minutes.

"There's no details and there's nothing behind it," coach Keith Smart said. "I went with the guys that I thought at that particular time would give us what I was looking for with that team.''

While it's uncertain whether he'll return to the starting lineup Sunday, Cousins has totaled 45 points and 19 rebounds in his last two against the Grizzlies.

Teammate Tyreke Evans has stepped up lately, averaging 23.0 points and 54.2 percent shooting in his last three games. He scored 20 in the latest matchup in the series Feb. 12, a 108-101 loss.

The Kings, however, haven't gotten enough big offensive efforts against the Grizzlies this season, as they've managed 83.7 points and 39.3 percent shooting. Memphis ranks near the top of the NBA at 89.8 points allowed per game.

The Grizzlies have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.

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