The Grizzlies had an assist last night from the Charlotte Bobcats, who beat a fading Phoenix Suns team 114-109 for an overtime road win. The loss put the Suns a few winning-percentage points behind the Grizzlies, vaulting the Grizzlies into 7th place in the Western Conference standings. How much higher can they go? Well, according to Chris Mannix of CNNSI.com:
Memphis has a chance to rocket up the standings. Look at some of the teams around the Grizzlies. Houston is overachieving, Phoenix is fielding offers for its second-best player (Amar'e Stoudemire) and the Blazers' injury woes have to catch up to them eventually. The Grizzlies' phenomenal interior strength — who would have thought Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol would have formed the best 1-2 inside punch before the season? — will prevent any sustained droughts and long losing streaks. Remember, throw out the 1-8 start and Memphis has won nearly 68 percent of its games. That's a better winning percentage than all but one team (Los Angeles) in the conference. My prediction: The Grizz lock up the No. 6 seed by April.
A mere two games separates the 4th through 11th teams in the West right now, which makes every night from here on out relevant to the standings, but tonight's games, in particular, present a lot of room for movement. Working through the 4-11 seeds:
4. Utah 26 18 .591 7 ½
5. Portland 27 19 .587 7 ½
Utah will be at Portland tonight, so the Grizzlies will definitely have a chance to gain ground on one of these teams tonight.
6. San Antonio 25 18 .581 8
The Spurs are at home against the Atlanta Hawks. The Spurs have lost three straight at home (to the Jazz, Rockets, and Bulls) and with their annual "rodeo trip" (eight-straight on the road) looming in February, surely they're going to break that streak. But the Hawks, 29-14 overall, 11-9 on the road, are a tough one. The Hawks have been rolling of late, winning six of their past seven, including road wins against the Celtics and Rockets.
7. Memphis 24 19 .558 9
The Grizzlies are at Detroit tonight. The Griz have lost close ones in their last two road games, but should have a better chance for a win tonight against a Pistons team that is 15-28 overall and only 11-11 at home. The Pistons have lost their past two home games, to the Pacers and Trailblazers. Hopefully, the Grizzlies will be motivated by their embarrassing 96-74 home loss to the Pistons in the home opener.
8. Phoenix 26 21 .553 9
No game tonight.
9. Houston 24 20 .545 9 ½
The Rockets are at home, but will have to contend with the streaking Denver Nuggets, winners of nine of the their past 10 games. The Rockets, meanwhile, are 4-7 in January and have lost three of their past four at home.
10. New Orleans 24 20 .545 9 ½
The Hornets are at Golden State tonight. The Hornets have been playing pretty great of late. They are 6-3 on the road in January with two losses coming in overtime (Denver and Detroit) and the other by only four points (Philadelphia). The flailing Warriors, with only one January home win against a decent team (Chicago) might not be much help.
11. Oklahoma City 24 20 .545 9 ½
The Thunder is at home against the Bulls, which might seem like a good shot at a win, but the Bulls have been the Grizzlies' biggest helpers of late, having beat Phoenix, Houston, and San Antonio, all on the road, over their past three games. Can they keep this unlikely streak going?