The Memphis Grizzlies coasted to victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday for their third straight win. The win put the Grizzlies half a game behind the Clippers for fourth place in the Western Conference. This is an exciting place for the Grizzlies to be with 10 games left.
If Rudy Gay and the the Grizzlies pull off a strong finish to the season, they could move up to fourth or even third in the conference. The Grizzlies have a soft finish, which sees them play four of their last 10 games against winning teams and six of 10 at home.
The Clippers and third-place Los Angeles Lakers face tougher schedules to finish the season. The Clippers finish with six of nine games on the road, as well as six of nine against winning teams. The Lakers play six of their last eight against winning teams and four of eight on the road.
A perfect finish for the Grizzlies would certainly cement a No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Thus, the Grizzlies would earn their first ever home-court advantage in a playoff series.
Follow along for a look at each remaining game to see whether the Grizzlies could set off a perfect season-ending run in the last 10 games.
The Phoenix Suns will enter the FedEx Forum in Memphis trying to complete a three-game sweep in the season series in their quest to slip into the top eight in the conference. Currently, the Suns sit just behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth spot.
The Suns won seven straight in late February and early April. Since then, they've crept slowly into contention.
Now, the Suns will face a daunting challenge in taking the next step in the playoff hunt against the Grizzlies. They're a subpar 12-16 on the road, and the Grizzlies are a terrific 19-7 at home.
Marc Gasol did pretty well against the Suns in Phoenix, shooting 14-of-29 for 36 points while pulling down 21 rebounds in the two games there.
Rudy Gay struggled in the last game at Phoenix, shooting 7-of-20 for 18 points.
They should do far better in this upcoming contest, as the Grizzlies play with much more energy than they do during West Coast road trips.
Prediction: Grizzlies 102, Suns 95
This may or may not be a preview to a second-round series, depending on whether the Grizzlies and Spurs end up on the same side of the Western Conference bracket. Whereas the Grizzlies trail the Lakers by only two games for third place, the Spurs are neck-and-neck with the Thunder for the top spot.
The Grizzlies will try to avoid a season-series sweep at the hands of the Spurs. In both games against the Spurs, the Grizzlies lacked cohesiveness and failed to hit shots. Both times, the Grizzlies shot 37 percent from the field.
Rudy Gay was dismal shooting from the field in both games. He missed all seven field goals in the first game at San Antonio, and then shot 9-of-26 for 18 points a week later in a home loss to the Spurs.
Hopefully the Grizzlies shoot better on Thursday against the Spurs. They'll need to at least be efficient in order to put up a fight against such a stellar all-around team. Likewise, this team that relies so much on chemistry can't fall to infighting again in a game against a tenacious team.
Prediction: Spurs 90, Grizzlies 88
Why is Gordon Hayward pictured in this slide? The former Butler Bulldog torched the Grizzlies for 23 points in a Utah Jazz win at FedEx Forum in mid-February.
The Grizzlies might not be too concerned about Hayward, who averages 11.2 points per game. Rudy Gay may put extra effort into making sure Hayward doesn't get away with too much, but the Grizzlies will be looking to contain frontcourt threats Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
Jefferson and Millsap, who average 19.3 and 16.9 points per game, respectively, are true offensive threats.
Marc Gasol and Dante Cunningham will likely work hard to ensure that those two don't embarrass them on their home court. Cunningham will likely get more minutes than Marreese Speights against the Jazz on Sunday in order to slow the rangy Millsap.
Also, watch the matchup between Mike Conley and Devin Harris. Harris is a capable point guard, but he turns the ball over a fair amount. Conley may take advantage of this to grab a few steals.
In both of their previous meetings, the Grizzlies held the Jazz, the fifth highest-scoring team in the league, below their season average. They'll need to do it again in order to claim victory on Sunday.
Prediction: Grizzlies 97, Jazz 92
A road game against the New Orleans Hornets isn't much of a road game. The Hornets have actually won one more game on the road than at home. Not much can come as reassuring for a Hornets team that has seen far too much adversity this season en route to the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies didn't have much of problem the last time they visited the Hornets. They won 93-87, leading practically the whole way. Memphis almost blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead, but O.J. Mayo made sure they didn't change the scoreboard before he and Mike Conley converted late free throws to seal the deal.
New Orleans could still put up a fight as has been the case the entire season. This team only lost by two against the Lakers on Monday and has taken 26 of their 42 losses by 10 points or less.
Expect this to be a game in which Lionel Hollins rests some players while trying to ensure a victory.
Prediction: Grizzlies 94, Hornets 87
The Minnesota Timberwolves had looked like a competitive team. They'd hung around the .500 mark much of the season. Ricky Rubio's season-ending injury dashed their playoff hopes. The T'Wolves have lost their last five games and eight of their last 10.
The Grizzlies have won the three meetings with the T'Wolves thus far this season, and a sweep of the season series seems likely. When the Grizzlies visited Minnesota in January, Tony Allen led a winning effort by hitting all eight field-goal attempts en route to 20 points.
If a sparse-shooting Allen can rain down shots on the T'Wolves, which rank 24th in scoring defense, then a win on the road against them isn't too hard. With Zach Randolph back and very much able to neutralize Kevin Love on the boards, the Grizzlies could run away with this one.
Prediction: Grizzlies 97, T'Wolves 87
The Grizzlies will host the Hornets in their fifth-to-last game of the season. This could be one where the Grizzlies coast to victory.
In the last home meeting, the Grizzlies won 108-99. Rudy Gay scored 23 points and had two steals. Marc Gasol had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Gay, Gasol and Mike Conley played 40 minutes or more in the winning effort. That won't be necessary on April 18. O.J. Mayo and Gilbert Arenas will spell Conley. Quincy Pondexter will jump in to allow Gay to rest. For Gasol, Hamed Haddadi and Dante Cunningham will pitch in to allow him to rest up.
Prediction: Grizzlies 106, Hornets 97
The Charlotte Bobcats are in full tank mode, and they won't end that in a game against a Western Conference dynamo like the Grizzlies. Charlotte has only two wins against Western Conference teams.
The last time the Grizzlies and Bobcats met, on Dec. 15, 2010, the Grizzlies trounced the Bobcats 113-80. That was Memphis' most lopsided victory of the season. Rudy Gay scored 23 points and O.J. Mayo scored 24.
The Grizzlies won't be trying to wallop the Bobcats like they did that night, but they could come close, even if they're resting Gay, Gasol and Conley a good amount of the game.
Prediction: Grizzlies 110, Bobcats 84
The Portland Trail Blazers had been on the fringe in the first half of the season. Then, they lost their way.
Now, the Trail Blazers stand a few games below .500 and don't stand much of a chance to claw back into the playoff race. By the time they visit FedEx Forum in Memphis, they'll likely be eliminated.
The Grizzlies lost both games at Portland. The first came when the Blazers were still competitive and the second came as the Grizzlies were testing things out with Gilbert Arenas.
Now, the Grizzlies should be able to have their way with the Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies play much better at home than they do on the West Coast. Also, the Trail Blazers likely won't be interested when they visit Memphis, since they'll be trying to position themselves in the draft lottery.
Rudy Gay could spark a third-quarter run, and then find his place on the bench to rest his legs.
Prediction: Grizzlies 101, Blazers 87
Kyrie Irving has had a very nice rookie year for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He's shown an impressive ability to run the point. By the time the Cavaliers face the Grizzlies, Irving will be putting the finishing touches on a Rookie of the Year season.
The Grizzlies will be putting the finishing touches on their own season. Lionel Hollins will be getting the rotation set for the playoffs. He'll showcase the likely lineup of Marc Gasol, Marreese Speights, Rudy Gay, Tony Allen and Mike Conley to start. Periodically, he'll switch in O.J. Mayo, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas and Quincy Pondexter to give starters rest.
Pondexter will be the one player to get many more minutes than he has been averaging, as he'll play about 20 minutes, as Gay will take more rest.
Even as Irving pushes his way through the game against Grizzlies reserves, the Grizzlies will control this home affair.
Prediction: Grizzlies 91, Cavaliers 88
The Grizzlies will play host to the Orlando Magic to wrap up a season-ending thee-game homestand. What a treat! The Grizzlies get to finish the season against a Magic team that has been more of a soap opera than a basketball team this season.
Orlando spent much of the season shrouded in Dwight Howard trade rumors. Then came rumors about Stan Van Gundy's job security. Now, the product on the court seems secondary to maintaining tranquility off it.
The Magic are knotted with the Atlanta Hawks for sixth in the Eastern Conference, a place few foresaw for the Magic at the beginning of the season.
As the saga continues and speculation persists about the statuses of Howard and Van Gundy, a win for the Grizzlies in the season finale seems all the more likely.
Prediction: Grizzlies 100, Magic 89