Ten games left in the regular season.
Just think about that for a moment. In less than a month that NBA playoffs will start, and everything that the best teams in the league have put their heart, soul, and guts into will truly begin. No more games that don't matter. No more resting guys for the stretch run. This IS the stretch run.
For the Grizzlies this season has been...well...fraught with peril. The injury bug has hit them hard. There have been struggles, line up difficulties, trades, and all sorts of calamities. But with ten games left in the season, there are essentially two questions to be answered about this Grizzlies team.
1) Will the Grizzlies Make the Playoffs?
The answer: More likely than not. Which leads to number two.
2) Will the Grizzlies hold on to the fifth seed?
The answer: a little more complicated.
Here are the Western Conference Standings as of last night.
The Grizzlies currently hold a four game lead over the Portland Trailblazers for the fifth seed with just ten games to go. They trail the Clippers by four games for the fourth seed and eight games for the third seed. The highest they could finish is third and the lowest is ninth. Unrelated note, I was surprised at how good the Grizzlies record was in conference, but then again they have five games left against Golden State, San Antonio, and the LA Clippers.
First, lets take a look at the teams the Grizzlies are in competition with and see what their remaining schedule looks like. Just as a note, games that are important in the playoff race are in bold and predictions I don't feel good about are in italics.
Los Angeles Clippers- Current Third Seed/Twelve Games Left/ Magic Number- 3
I have the Clippers going 8-4 down the stretch, giving them an overall record of 51-31. They have a magic number of nine for for the fourth seed. It seems very likely that the Clippers will finish with the fourth seed despite going 0-3 on their last road trip.
Portland Trail Blazers- Current Sixth Seed/Ten Games Left/Magic Number- 8
Portland benefits from an easier schedule than any of the other playoff teams for their last ten games. They only have two back-to-back games, and would have probably have lost to those teams anyway (GSW and OKC). I have them going 8-2 and finishing with a record of 45-37.
Dallas Mavericks- Current Seventh Seed/Eleven Games Left/Current Magic Number-10
I have the Mavericks finishing 6-5, with two games I do not feel good about. Sometimes I have trouble gauging teams that are in playoff races in different conferences, like the Pistons. The last win against San Antonio depends on whether or not the Spurs have anything to play for by then. They could finish in a realistic range of 6-5 to 4-7. At 6-5 during their last nine games, they would finish with a record of 41-41.
Utah Jazz- Current Eighth Seed/Eleven Games Left/Magic Number-10
I have the now red hot Jazz finishing 8-3 with a record of 43-39. Utah draws both Dallas and San Antonio on second night of back to backs. That Dallas game is big for both teams.
Houston- Current Ninth Seed/Ten Games Left/Current Magic Number-10
Current look at the Rockets season
Yeesh. If the Grizzlies weren't struggling so much with injuries, watching the Rockets implode would be more fun.
I have the Rockets finishing 4-6, missing the playoff entirely, although I am unsure about a few of their upcoming games. The Rockets final record would then be 39-41.
Memphis Grizzlies- Current Fifth Seed/Ten Games Left/Magic Number-5
So to answer how likely is it that the Grizzlies are to finish with the fifth seed depends on your view of how good this team actually is. On the continuum of sports fandom , there are essentially five positions one can hold when trying to predict the upcoming games
This position takes the current roster into account, and marks off the importance of past wins and losses vs a team, in addition to schedule and location of game
This position gives the Grizzlies the benefit the doubt in some of the games. This will referred to as the "Mullinax."
The opposite of good realistic. The Grizzlies will get losses in games in which may be toss ups.
The Grizzlies staff discovers a magical formula that turns this team into the Monstars, or Benny Hinn comes in and starts shooting healing light bolts into the Grizzlies bringing everyone back for the stretch run, while everyone else starts to suck.
We will call this the "Hyper-Mullinax."
This is the worst of all fears.
Here we go
What can we learn from this?
1) It will very difficult for the Grizzlies to miss the playoff unless one of the following things happen: Portland gets hot and wins some games they aren't supposed to or Utah gets hot and wins some games they aren't supposed to.
2) The Grizzlies will most like head to LA for the first round of the playoffs. Oklahoma City and Golden State are probably other teams they could possibly draw.
3) Tie breakers could be very important. I have no idea about tie breakers. Read this.