With the news that Memphis Grizzlies center and lynchpin Marc Gasol is listed as day-to-day with a bone bruise, the last weeks of the NBA's regular season now may seem like a shift into survival mode for the Grizz. And while Memphis should and will be as cautious as necessary with Gasol, ensuring his readiness for the postseason above all else, this doesn't mean that ground needs to be given in the ongoing Western Conference playoff standings dance party.
The Grizzlies, even with that putrid loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday, one in which the Basketball Gods themselves sobbed uncontrollably, unable to fathom how the game they preside over can be so terrifyingly ugly at times (I would imagine, though, that even the Gods, purists and unapologetic apologists to the core, would play the Lockout Fatigue Card for a showing like this), even with a game like that, the Grizzlies are very much okay, so long as Gasol is.
As of this morning, Memphis sits in fifth place, a game-and-a-half up on the Denver Nuggets and two ahead of the Dallas Mavericks; they are two-and-a-half behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place and home-court advantage. Even with Gasol in the lineup, making up multiple games in the standings won't be easy, which is why the Grizzlies are not in imminent danger of slipping to sixth, especially when you consider the respective schedules of Dallas, Denver, and Memphis.
Denver's final five:
Versus the Los Angeles Clippers; at Phoenix; versus Orlando; at Oklahoma City; at Minnesota.
Dallas's last four games look like this:
Versus Houston; versus Golden State; at Chicago; at Atlanta.
And Memphis's final six are here:
At Minnesota; versus New Orleans; at Charlotte; versus Portland; versus Cleveland; versus Orlando.
So: That's two more games to create some separation if needed, against what on paper looks like a favorable schedule -- of course, we know how those can go. The Clippers own the season series advantage over the Grizz, meaning they'd have to surpass Los Angeles outright to claim the fourth position; not an impossible task by any means but without Gasol all the more difficult. Maybe this could be the time Zach Randolph re-acclimates as focal point in a big way?
Basically, the Grizzlies should be able to handle their business in relation to their match-ups, for the most part, even if Gasol sits all of the final six games. And as it could be turning out, the fifth seed could be their final ending place once the regular season wraps because of who's around them and what they've done to get here.
The main goal of all this, then, should be making sure Gasol is back and ready for the postseason. But for the time being, handling the business at hand, whether it be the Hornets (again) or Bobcats, should be the short-term focus. The truncated season is almost over, and while the quality of play has been up and down with each new injury, the Grizzlies -- and hopefully Gasol -- will be just fine, but there still remains games to be played regardless.