The Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in terrific position heading into the next-to-last month of the regular season. Taking advantage of their opponent's slippage coming off a hard loss against the New Jersey Nets, the Grizzlies routed the Dallas Mavericks 95-85. That brought the Grizzlies (20-15) within half a game of Dallas and the Houston Rockets for fifth in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies had an ideal setup for the month of February, and they did pretty well with what they were given. With only five road games out of 14, the Grizzlies went 9-5 on the month to climb up the standings in the West. While the Grizzlies didn't improve their road play too much, they made the most of their home-court dominance.
Follow along for a few key observations to take away from the February slate that just finished.
The Grizzlies came up with a couple of nice wins on the road. They started off the month by putting a thorough 96-77 beating on the Atlanta Hawks for their first road win against a winning team, leading by more than 20 points for much of the second half. Dante Cunningham held Josh Smith to 11 points. Tony Allen scored an impressive 18 points.
Also, they dashed off a 105-100 win against the New Jersey Nets, a game in which Rudy Gay, Mareese Speights and Marc Gasol each scored 20 points or more.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies had a couple of bad losses. They went into Boston disoriented and lost 98-80 to the aging Celtics. At Boston, they showed little energy and shot only 36.8 percent from the field. Later in the month, the Grizzlies blew a double-digit lead to lose to the Rockets 97-93.
While the Grizzlies have shown they can win on the road, they still went 2-3 on the road in February. They also showed scant ability to handle good teams on the road. They'll need to shape up against good teams on the road, as it'll be key during the stretch run.
The Grizzlies are rock solid at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. They're now 14-5 at home. That includes a 7-2 home record in February. That includes a couple of close wins on the home court. Tony Allen tipped in a Rudy Gay miss to bring the Grizzlies to victory against the Golden State Warriors. That was a day after Dante Cunningham tipped in a Rudy Gay last-second shot to beat the Denver Nuggets.
Those two plays show how the Grizzlies are much better at gathering that late-game magic.
As long as the Grizzlies can keep things going on the home court, they can find a way to sustain themselves during the race for the playoffs.
For some time, Marreese Speights looked like he would disappear amidst the Grizzlies' rotation. He averaged 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in a 10-game stretch in which he saw a drop in minutes. During that time, Speights shot a dismal 32 percent from the field.
Heading into the All-Star break, Speights found a spark. In the last nine games before the break, Speights averaged 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent.
Still, as he showed in his 1-of-5 showing in 19 minutes against the Mavericks, he struggles when he plays sparse minutes. Speights shoots just above 32.7 percent when he plays 10 to 19 minutes, 38.9 percent when playing 20 to 29 minutes and 62.5 percent when playing 30 to 39 minutes.
Speights needs to play well in the next couple games so that Lionel Hollins considers calling his name after Zach Randolph returns to the lineup. One can hardly tell if he'd be more worth the minutes off the bench than Dante Cunningham since Speights doesn't do well playing fewer minutes.