As the Memphis Grizzlies entered a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference, their race with the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks for the final spot becomes one of the NBA's most intriguing. Despite being one of the hottest teams in the league, the Grizzlies must stay hot to make the playoffs.
Per usual, defense is the most remarkable aspect. The Grizzlies have defended much better since Marc Gasol returned from his MCL sprain. Tony Allen's presence coming off the bench changes the complexion of the defensive capabilities outside the starting five.
However, a few other factors are more significant in the stretch run.
With players coming off injuries and Beno Udrih entering the fold, the rotation becomes complex. Issues arise regarding which backup big men to play in different spots. Whether developing Nick Calathes is more important than using Udrih's outside shooting through the end of the regular season comes into play.
Gasol becomes the most important player to watch as the year winds down, especially as his offense comes together.
The schedule features a few twists. Memphis faces a few tough games. The season ends with games against the Suns and Mavericks, which opens the possibility of either game deciding which team falls out of the race.
Follow along for the full breakdown of each item.
Statistics are current through March 9 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.