Grizzlies Inch Closer to Clinching Fifth Seed
Memphis 93, Houston 81
HOUSTON, April 15 (Ticker) -- Mike Miller and the Memphis Grizzlies apparently don't mind being fifth.
Miller came off the bench to score 25 points as the Grizzlies moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference with a 93-81 victory over the Houston Rockets.
"We're in a fight for position right now," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "You get rewarded for winning. We can still get home-court advantage with a better record than the third place team (Denver)."
Whoever finishes in fifth place will meet either powerful San Antonio (60-19) or Dallas (59-21) in the first round of the playoffs. The sixth-place team would face Denver (44-35).
"You can't try to position yourself by winning or losing," Battier said. "Mess with the basketball gods, they always come back and punish you."
"The last couple of years we thought we had a better chance going against San Antonio and going against Phoenix because we were 3-1 against them (in the regular season)," Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol said. "We lost to both teams 4-0. The playoffs are different."
Miller, who made 10-of-14 shots, scored 12 points in a tight first half that ended in a 46-46 deadlock.
"When you come off the bench you've got to get yourself involved as early as possible," Miller said. "It's easy when you come off not to be part of the game unless you get involved right away."
In the third quarter, Battier scored eight points and Miller five, enabling the Grizzlies to grab a 73-62 advantage entering the final period.
"Mike gave us a huge game coming off the bench and Shane had it going tonight," Fratello said. "You're in a tie game at halftime and you say to yourselves, 'We've got to get ourselves going here.'"
Gasol added 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Grizzlies, who won all four meetings against the Rockets this season.
"We're on a roll now," Gasol said. "The chemistry's good, the mentality's good. Whoever we play is going to be tough anyway."
"They've got a guy who is playing as well as anyone in the league in Pau Gasol," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "They've got shooting to go around him, they've got two quality point guards. They've got firepower off the bench and they've got solid defense."
Juwan Howard scored 16 points and Rafer Alston had 13 and 10 assists for Houston (33-47), which has lost four straight and seven of its last eight games.