The Memphis Grizzlies currently sit as the 6th seed in the Western Conference. With only 24 games left in the regular season, time is running out for the teams to charge up the conference standings and change playoff match-ups. But with our streaky Grizzlies team, there is no way of knowing what the next 24 games will bring. They could easily go 8-2 in the next 10 games, no matter the competition, or they could lose the next four games to some of the league’s worst teams.
Much of the media and analysis covering the NBA consider the league to be top heavy, and even that is an overstatement for some. Really there are two teams that most people are saying that have a chance to win this year’s NBA Finals. (According to Brett Pollakoff of Fox Sports, perhaps there are 4 teams.) But I am here to say that the Memphis Grizzlies, yes you read that right, could make a splash in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
Below is a list of potential playoff match ups for the Grizzlies, and which team we would rather see in the first round of the playoffs.
First, I will do my best Nostradamus impression and predict what Memphis’s final record headed to post season will be.
If the team wins the games we are supposed to win and losses games that they are expected to lose, they will finish the second half 17-7 in the final 24 games. Combine that with the 34-24 they are currently at, that puts the final record at 51-31.
It is likely my prediction will be off a few games in both columns, perhaps they will beat the Spurs 1 out 2 games, or perhaps flop against a newly improved Pelicans team.
Based on my predictions of the remaining games for the current Western Conference teams (not including the Spurs or the Warriors, the Grizzlies simply are not catching them), the standings would most likely remain the same. The only caveat being that the Grizzlies would end the season in a close race for the 4th seed with the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz.
My predictions leave the Jazz and Grizz tied at the 5th seed with the Grizz owning the tie breaker (3-1 versus the Jazz in the regular season). The Clippers would win home court advantage by one game, leaving little room for error for the Clips in the second half of the season.
But which match-up would be best for the Grizz?
Specifically speaking on the first round, I can exclude the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, and Nuggets. Those are the top two seeds and bottom two seeds that will make the playoffs and play one another, that doesn’t look to change in the last 24 games.
Houston Rockets vs. Memphis Grizzlies
If all stays the same, the Grizzlies would face James Harden and the Houston Rockets in the first round. That’s a scary match-up for both teams, the high octane Rockets offense could score 130 points and leave the Grizzlies in the dust. But the Grizzlies defense could ground the Rockets and keep the game in the low 100s.
The season series is currently 2-1 in favor of the Grizz, with one more game to play at Houston. In both wins, Memphis scored over 110 points, but in the loss, Houston scored 119. This Rockets team relies heavily on the 3-point shot (after all, they did set a record…well multiple 3-point records in one game). The Memphis team prides itself on defense and controlling the pace, so different styles of play make for an interesting series.
My take: I would rather not play the Rockets in the first round. James Harden is scary good, capable of carrying a team day in and day out. They won 40 games in the first half, they are a legitimate contender for the Western Conference title. I’d like to pass on this match-up.
LA Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
If you’re a Memphis fan at all, playing the Clippers should spark some anger deep in your heart automatically, no matter the importance of the game. The Clippers are the closest thing to a rivalry that the Grizzlies can claim currently, and the brute force that comes with this series is frightening. The Clippers are one of the few teams in the league that have two bigs to counter the Memphis bigs.
Historically, these teams are practically even. The two playoff series that sparked the (maybe?) rivalry starting in 2012 ended in a 7 game series win for the Clippers. The next year the Grizz got revenge in a 6 game win. Both teams have stayed true to their roots with the point guard and two big men combination. The Clips lead the 2017 season series 1-2 currently, Memphis has one more home game to play against them. For this matchup to happen, the Grizz would probably have to secure the 5 seed so long as the Clips don’t fall out of the 4th spot.
My take: I don’t mind this matchup. As much as I’d rather play a smaller team without the flop-master Chris Paul, the Grizzlies seem to shine against this team. Though the series is even in the past few regular seasons, I see the Grizzlies team beating the Clippers in a 7-game series. This is not my favorite matchup, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it.
Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Who would have thought that the Jazz would be fighting for home court advantage in this year’s playoffs? I definitely did not see it coming, but regardless, this Jazz team is a strong force heading in to the second half of the season. In order to play the Jazz in the playoffs, both the Grizzlies and Jazz would have to move up a spot in the current standings. That will be a tall task considering the Clippers would have to fall two spots and out of home court advantage.
The Grizzlies own the 2017 season series 3-1, winning two games on the road. Two of the four games were held in the 80s, while the other two (both wins) the Grizz scored 102 points. In other words, this matchup would be a load of defense and important possessions. Each team boasted one All-Star this year, Gordon Hayward is playing at his best yet, and Rudy Gobert probably should have been an All-Star. Why wasn’t he? Because Marc Gasol is just a little bit better.
These teams are very even with similar playing styles, yet with little to no playoff experience from the Jazz, that could pose an issue down the stretch of a 7-game series.
My take: This is my favorite matchup for the Grizzlies. They seem to play well against the Jazz, and the Jazz struggle against the lockdown defense of the Grizz. I think the experience and leadership of Memphis would play a huge role in the playoff noobies of Utah. This matchup is unlikely, but would be very fortunate for the Grizzlies if it falls in to place.
There are tons of factors that will affect the playoff picture in the next 24 games. Injuries, trades, slumps, and steaks will all play a part into what the Grizzlies seed will be in April. The Grizzlies start off the second half of the season on the road against the Indiana Pacers on February 24.