When Rudy Gay went down with a separated left shoulder, at first I thought the season, as well as the Grizzlies' postseason hopes, had collapsed along with him.
Then after a few games had passed with Gay on the sidelines, I realized something: Memphis was still winning games without their star player.
Not only have the Grizzlies continued to win games, they have been winning against some of the top teams in the league.
Since Gay's injury, Memphis has victories over the San Antonio Spurs (two), Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics.
After last night's 111-104 victory over San Antonio, coupled with the Houston Rockets falling 125-119 to the Miami Heat, Memphis now holds a two and a half game lead over Houston for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West.
The New Orleans Hornets were also crushed 102-84 by the Los Angeles Lakers, narrowing their lead over the Grizzlies to just one game for the seventh seed.
Considering the Hornets also recently lost one of their best players to injury, with David West being lost for the season with a torn ACL, Memphis could very likely pass the Hornets in the standings over the final few weeks of the regular season.
The teams have two games remaining against each other in the regular season, with the first being April 1 in New Orleans, followed by a rematch April 10 in Memphis.
Those two games will be vital for the Grizzlies, as they would likely end up passing New Orleans in the final standings with two head-to-head wins if both teams continue playing at their recent levels.
Both teams have been 6-4 over their last 10 games.
Memphis has replaced Gay's production by committee for the most part, with Tony Allen, Sam Young and Shane Battier all playing vital roles for the Grizzlies since the injury occurred.
Allen, in particular, has been playing an extremely high level and has arguably been the team's best all-around player during their recent run.
Over the past 10 games, Allen has averaged 14.5 points, four rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals per contest, while shooting at a rate of 58 percent from the floor.
According to ESPN.com, he also has a PER of 18.66, which is seventh best in the league among shooting guards and is tied for 49th overall in the league in player efficiency ratings.
Battier has also been huge since Memphis brought him back to the team through a deadline deal with the Rockets.
He was a major contributor when the Grizzlies made three consecutive trips to the postseason from 2003-06 and it appears likely he will help lead them back for the first time since then.
If everyone continues to play at their recent high levels for the Grizzlies, Memphis should lock up one of the last two playoff spots in the West ahead of the Rockets and/or Hornets.
Not only do I think Memphis will secure one of the last playoff spots, but I also think they have a chance to score a few victories over the Spurs or Lakers, whichever team the Grizzlies end up being paired against.
If the season ended today, the team would be matched up with San Antonio, whom the Grizzlies split their season series with two victories for each team.
Memphis has won the past two matchups between the teams, meaning they should be feeling pretty good about their chances if they meet again in a few weeks.
Definitely keep your eyes open for Memphis to not only make it to the postseason without Gay, but also to do a little bit of damage while they're at it.
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