It took until their fifth game in the NBA bubble, but the Memphis Grizzlies finally have their first win since the 2019-20 season resumed. On Friday, the Grizzlies, who still hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, notched a 121-92 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.
Memphis suffered losses to the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz in the first half of its eight seeding games. However, the Grizzlies still hold a one-game advantage over the Trail Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
There are only seven days with seeding games left, then any necessary tiebreaker games will take place. The NBA playoffs are scheduled to begin Aug. 17.
Here's a look at the standings, followed by the top storylines as the start of the playoffs gets closer.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (55-14)
2. Toronto Raptors (49-19)
3. Boston Celtics (46-23)
4. Miami Heat (43-26)
5. Indiana Pacers (42-27)
6. Philadelphia 76ers (42-27)
7. Brooklyn Nets (33-36)
8. Orlando Magic (32-28)
9. Washington Wizards (24-45)
1. Los Angeles Lakers (51-17)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (46-22)
3. Denver Nuggets (45-24)
4. Houston Rockets (43-25)
5. Utah Jazz (43-26)
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-26)
7. Dallas Mavericks (41-30)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-37)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (32-38)
10. San Antonio Spurs (30-38)
11. New Orleans Pelicans (30-39)
12. Phoenix Suns (30-39)
13. Sacramento Kings (29-40)
Can Grizzlies hold on to make playoffs?
If Memphis had lost to Oklahoma City on Friday, it would have created a tie between it and Portland for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies avoided that as Dillon Brooks (22 points) and Ja Morant (19 points and nine assists) powered their 29-point win over the Thunder.
The victory came at a crucial time for Memphis as there are four teams (Portland, San Antonio, New Orleans and Phoenix) within two-and-a-half games of it for the No. 8 seed.
"As a whole, we never doubted ourselves, doubted what we can accomplish as a team," Morant said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
The Grizzlies will need to finish strong in their final three seeding games to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season, though. But they also have a difficult remaining schedule, as they're set to face the top three teams in the Eastern Conference—the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics.
And if Memphis reached the postseason, it will immediately face a tough challenge, as the Lakers have clinched the No. 1 seed and will be the first-round opponent for whichever team ends up as the No. 8 seed.
Which team has best chance to overtake Memphis?
With four teams within two-and-a-half games of the Grizzlies, and either three or four seeding games remaining for each, there's still time for a team to make a late push and bump Memphis from the playoffs. However, there isn't much margin for error for these teams as they try to do that.
The Trail Blazers are in the best spot at one game behind the Grizzlies with four seeding games remaining against the Clippers, 76ers, Mavericks and Nets. Meanwhile, the Spurs are two games back and the Pelicans and Suns are each two-and-a-half back. But Phoenix has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA bubble, as it's 4-0 in seeding games thus far.
Still, Portland appears to be the most likely to sneak into the playoffs in these final games. It's also been playing well of late as it's won three of its four seeding games, beating Memphis, Houston and Denver.
The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs each of the past six seasons (including a trip to the Western Conference Finals last year), and they may be on their way to preventing that streak from ending.
Nets in playoffs, can they make surprise run?
The Nets clearly don't have their best possible roster in the NBA bubble with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving injured and Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler all opting not to play in the season restart. Yet they've been playing solid through their first five seeding games.
Brooklyn is 3-2 since the season resumed, notching victories over Washington, Milwaukee and Sacramento and clinching its spot in the playoffs. The Nets have three seeding games remaining as they'll look to hold on to the No. 7 seed. They're currently one-and-a-half games ahead of the Magic.
"It's great to punch your own ticket into the playoffs," Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn said, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. "I joked with the guys: I like my laundry being done, but nothing like doing your own laundry.”
Although the Nets have surprised a bit with their recent play, they're going to face a great challenge once they reach the playoffs and match up against either the Bucks or Raptors. They may have beat Milwaukee 119-116 on Tuesday, but it will be a challenge for them to upset the Bucks in a best-of-seven series.
If Brooklyn goes on a run, not only would it be one of the biggest surprises of this unorthodox NBA season, but it could turn into one of the best stories.