Things couldn't have gone any better for the Grizzlies last night. Not only did the Grizz beat the Warriors, having played a near flawless second half, but the Rockets and, if it matters any longer, the Suns both lost. This means we have a 3-game cushion on Houston.
Ahead of us sit the Hornets and the Blazers, each just one game up. So, the 7th and 6th seeds are also well within reach. Considering that we play the Hornets on Friday (road) and then again on April 10 (home) we can certainly jump them in the standings. We also play the Blazers (road) in the final week of the season, so there is plenty of room for movement here.
We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but our playoff chances are looking pretty solid right now. Last night was a step in the right direction and there was plenty to like about our performance after a slow start.
Tony Allen remains as our second most valuable player right now, with Zach Randolph still carrying the load. Allen led the team in scoring with 21 points, leading their second-half surge. It was Allen who really picked up the intensity after the Warriors stumbled to a 10-point second half lead, picking three steals and scoring 10 points in the 3rd quarter.
The Warriors, who are among the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, were not able to get going from beyond the arc, which was in big part due to our defense. They made just 6-of-21 threes, opening the door for us to make our way back in the second half. As you know, whenever we can limit our opponents 3-point shooting, we're tough to beat.
Another key was the fact that we held onto the ball, dishing 28 assists to just five turnovers. Yes, five! Add that we played to our defensive strength forcing 14 turnovers and picking 12 steals, and it tured from a possible let-down game (1st half) to an easy win (see: 2nd half).
I was, and I guess still am, concerned about how flat we looked in the 1st half. It looked as if they were taking the game for granted, before really kicking it into gear. You can point to so many pluses in this one, including the fact that we shot 56.5% from the floor, but let's not forget about our lagging 2nd quarter and the fact that the Warriors had no pulse defensively in the second half (something we won't see in the playoffs). I don't mean to sound like a downer this morning, but O.J. Mayo needs to... Oh, never mind, let's just celebrate the victory and start punching our playoff ticket.
Friday, we have a chance to solidify out place in the playoffs with a win over the Hornets. The question now remains, which matchup is better for us? With the Spurs a little banged up, wouldn't playing San Antonio seem like a more favorable matchup? I don't think we want any part of the Lakers. but what if we can jump into the 6th seed and play the Mavs in the first round. I'd welcome that matchup.
We're still not officially in, but we can at least starting thinking about matchups. And to be honest with you, a matchup with the Lakers seems like the worst-case scenario right now. But, we'll cross that bridge once we officially get there.