The Memphis Grizzlies learned some disappointing news today as reports broke that Rudy Gay will not be able to return to the team this season and will likely need surgery to repair his injured shoulder.
While the injury definitely hurts the Grizzlies, as Gay is arguably the best player on the team, Memphis hasn't lost much steam in their playoff push since he went down.
Memphis has an 8-6 record in the past 14 games since Gay's injury and has maintained their grip on the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
Even though the Grizzlies had relied on Gay heavily during the first half of the season to get to where they are, the team has stayed afloat for several reasons.
Memphis made an excellent move at the trade deadline that not only rid the team of Hasheem Thabeet, but also brought Shane Battier back to the Grizzlies.
While Battier has averaged only 4.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in a little over 25 minutes per game in the 12 games he has played since the trade, his other contributions and defensive presence have been large reasons the Grizzlies are still ahead of the teams chasing them.
Another reason the team is surviving Gay's absence has been the fact that only one of the three teams chasing Memphis, the Houston Rockets, have been playing well recently.
The Grizzlies crushed the Utah Jazz 103-85 on Monday night to further distance themselves from them, and Phoenix has lost six of their past ten games.
Zach Randolph has also been huge for the Grizzlies recently, averaging 19.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 10 games during the month of March.
Memphis won six of those ten games, with Randolph being the games high scorer on four of those occasions.
The Grizzlies only have six games remaining in the regular season against teams that are currently in the playoffs, leaving five games against teams that aren't.
While I think the Rockets will make the race interesting up until the final games of the season, I think Memphis is going to finish two or three games ahead in the end and lock up the final playoff seed of the West.
Considering the San Antonio Spurs will likely be their opponents in the first round, I'm not feeling as optimistic about their chances of advancing as I would have with Gay on the floor healthy.
Although they probably aren't going to win the series with the Spurs, I think they will pick up at least one or two victories over San Antonio and end their historically bad 0-12 skid in the postseason.
Considering how hot Memphis has played at home and the fact they have scored huge wins over many of the best teams in the NBA on their home floor this season, I would be stunned if they were swept in the playoffs this year even without Gay.
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