Every year about this time people discuss what the Grizzlies should do with the remainder of the season. Should they try to win every game? Should they try to manipulate thier remaining schedule to get the most desirable final position?Of course, over the last few years the answer seemed to always be lose as many games as possible to get the most ping-pong balls in the lottery.
That isnt’ the case this year.
This year the fans are discussing who the Grizzlies should try to play in the playoffs.
I know, the Grizzlies haven’t clinched the playoffs yet and it is bad luck to discuss these things before they come to pass. People keep talking about chicken eggs hatching and stuff but every Grizzlies fan knows we were promised the playoffs by Mike Heisley and Mike always keeps his promises right?
So with 8 games remaining in the season just what are the Grizzlies options? Is anything but the standard “win every game you play” strategy more appropriate?
Conventional wisdom is the Grizzlies should prefer to play the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Why it is conventional to play the team with the best record in the NBA is debatable. However Memphis has had success against San Antonio this season. The Grizzlies are 2-2 against the Spurs and have outscored them overall. The first game in San Antonio went to overtime and Memphis was in control before last second errors cost them the game. The second game was tight to the finish before San Antonio made the plays to win the game. Both games in Memphis were convincing wins for the Grizzlies.
The Lakers also were 2-2 against Memphis this season but, unlike the Spurs, were not at full strength for most of the games. When the Lakers were at full strength Memphis stuggled handling them. The Lakers have the best record in the NBA since the all-star break and are rolling into the playoffs with a lot of momentum. It would make a lot of sense for the Grizzlies to want to avoid an early round matchup with the two time defending world champions.
Then there is Dallas. Memphis won both games in Dallas this year and defeated the Mavericks 3-1 in the season series. Dallas is a very different team than the Grizzlies. The Mavs perfer to shoot jump shots than pound thepaint where the Grizzlies get the majority of their points. Jump shots have a way of getting more difficult under the pressure of the playoffs. Dallas is, like San Antonio and LA, a very seasoned team with their leaders all over 30 years of age. Dirk Nowitzki is 32, Jason Terry is 33 and Jason Kidd is 38. Throw in Shawn Marion who is 32 and you have an experienced but aging team that has struggled in the playoffs and is clearly past their prime years.
Ideally the Grizzlies would choose Dallas and San Antonio as desirable playoff opponents over Los Angeles but it isn’t that simple. San Antonio has lost 4 consecutive games and is danger of sliding out of the top spot if their stars don’t recover from injury soon. Los Angeles is streaking but still just a game ahead of Dallas in the standings despite their recent roll. The Grizzlies with two games remaining against New Orleans and one against Portland in their final eight games could move up the standings and still get the undesirable matchup with Los Angeles if the Lakers rest players heading into the playoffs. Likewise the Grizzlies could remain in 8th and still end up playing the Lakers if San Antonio continues to slide.
From this writers viewpoint, the Grizzlies should continue to play to win games and not worry about the final standings or playoff matchups. Memphis is a young and inexperienced team and would be underdogs in any post-season matchup. It is far better to enter the playoffs playing your best than to try and get cute and risk losing the momentum that has gotten them to this point. After all, Houston is still just a couple games behind the Grizzlies in the loss column.