In a tight game throughout, the Grizzlies just lost enough offensive momentum last night at the wrong time, and yet another last-second win (perhaps we were spoiled over the weekend) fell out of reach in Houston as the Rockets won, 97-93. Memphis, still playing better of late despite the loss (winners of six of their last seven prior to last night), wraps up its pre-All-Star portion of the shortened campaign tonight at home against one of the more buzzworthy teams this season, the Philadelphia 76ers.
After the jump, a quick look at the Sixers.
Only two points this time around:
-- They've been fizzling of late. Philadelphia and its stretchy-long athleticism boasts the league's best defense in points allowed; they're an excellent example of a team growing together organically with quality players who fit roles, but sans a crunch-time scorer who fits that Superstar mold (Louis Williams off the bench has been fun to watch at times assuming that role, though).
That said, they've lost three straight, slipping back into the middle of the hectic Eastern Conference playoff picture, and have struggled all season against the upper-echelon teams in the league, leading many to question their legitimacy in terms of winning a playoff series in the spring.
-- None of that matters tonight. The Sixers have played hard for coach Doug Collins all season and are a crazy 16-4 in games decided by 10 points or more (the Grizz by comparison are 8-6), meaning that for the most part, when they play in blowouts, it's usually them doing the ass-kicking, and they've done it a lot so far.
They want to do the same thing the Grizzlies often look to do: Pressure opponents into mistakes and capitalize on them in the open floor with easy buckets. Memphis needs to control the feel of this game by only letting it go out of control when it's on their terms. This should be a night where things run through Marc Gasol in the post offensively; he should be able to direct traffic, distribute and score effectively against the undersized Sixers.
Tonight's the last time we see the Grizzlies before a much-needed All-Star break. Their recent winning streak has brought them to eighth in Hollinger's Playoff Odds at 60.4 percent. There's plenty of season left to go, and the Grizz have set themselves up to be in the postseason fight for the long haul. Only Philadelphia stands between them and the chance to take a breath. It can only feel better with a win.
**For all you need to know about the Philadelphia 76ers, do visit Liberty Ballers.