Going into Friday night, the Memphis Grizzlies are three games ahead of the Houston Rockets for the final postseason slot in the Western Conference. If you feel like doing research, you could probably tell me that crazier things have happened. And, if you've ever tried microwaving popcorn using the "Popcorn" sensor button, you probably know that it's never wise to completely ignore a task, no matter the ease with which it appears it can be accomplished. Always best to keep an eye on these things until the end. That ninth seed probably smells like burnt popcorn.
That said, tonight's trip to New Orleans and date with the Hornets begs the other eye to wander towards playoff positioning. Because if it's gonna happen, it'll likely start here.
Jump, drop and roll!
The Hornets, currently in the sixth spot out West, won the first two games of this season series so far -- if you remember, most recently pulling one out in the fourth quarter in Memphis back in early March, so another loss to them will put the sixth seed in a pretty hard-to-reach spot for the Grizz.
A win, with one more game yet to come against New Orleans and another against seventh-seeded Portland, pretty much sets up the bottom of the Western Conference as a two-week shitshow battle royale. And that's good. That's what we want. The Spurs should hang on to the top spot in the conference, unless, because of the oft-discussed switch apparently being flipped, the Los Angeles Lakers ascend to number one. Otherwise, the top three seeds out West could very well be stay where they are right now, with Dallas finishing in third.
With the Mavericks resume of postseason slips, they would appear to be the lesser of the three evils; the Spurs, provided they get themselves right by playoff time, were the conference's best for long periods of the season, though the Grizzlies have certainly played them well this year, and the Lakers are just the team that won the NBA Finals the last two seasons, so that can probably stand on its own.
New Orleans vaulted Portland in the standings for the time being on Wednesday night by virtue of a head-to-head victory at home. With David West currently out, we can assume they're all the more pleased with their acquisition of the consistent Carl Landry more than a month ago. And as always Chris Paul is where to begin and end any conversation about the Hornets; it will be another opportunity for the Grizzlies' defense to attempt to corral an elite point guard.
But aside from all the postulating about up-to-date standings and percentages and possible future scenarios, it's important to remember what this all boils down to: The level at which the Grizzlies are playing.
And that level has been set at pretty darn well lately. If they keep rolling on into the playoffs the Grizzlies' final resting spot in the standings will likely take care of itself, whether it be the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed also depends on how the other guys finish. As for the potential first round foe, Memphis will be underdogs regardless -- aside from some "could they do it?" hype -- of the opponent (but right now, it is looking like it'd be best to seriously do anything to avoid the Lakers).
The point is: All we can look for is the distinguishing traits that make this Memphis team run smooth. Tonight there's an opportunity to A) beat a playoff team on the road, B) climb the Western Conference standings -- and hopefully further away from the growing L.A. monster and C) keep playing good basketball before the real shit starts.
Do that last one and, hopefully, some of that other stuff will take care of itself.