Posted Feb 19 2007 1:40PM
The Seattle SuperSonics and Memphis Grizzlies are the unlikeliest of postseason contenders, sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Each club will try to begin climbing out of those positions when they meet Tuesday at KeyArena in their first game following the All-Star break.
The SuperSonics (20-32) are 14th in the West, trailing eighth-place Minnesota by five games. The last-place Grizzlies (14-40) are 12 games behind the Timberwolves and will likely snap a streak of three-straight postseason appearances.
Despite its deficit, Seattle isn't prepared to concede a trip to the postseason just yet.
"We're not giving up on the playoffs," Sonics coach Bob Hill said. "I'm not going to let them do it."
The Sonics experienced a brief upswing before the break, which may give them some momentum heading into the second half. They won three of their last four, including a 114-90 victory over Pacific Division-leading Phoenix on Wednesday.
Seattle shot 54.3 percent from the field, including 9-for-18 from 3-point range, to surpass 100 points for the 14th time in the last 17 games. The Sonics outrebounded the Suns 44-36 and held a team under 100 points for the first time in eight contests.
Seattle center Nick Collison recorded 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds.
"All year we've been inconsistent. We've had those peaks and valleys," Collison said. "It would be nice if we could find some consistency and keep it going."
Much of that inconsistency has been due to injuries to Seattle's top two scorers. Ray Allen, who is averaging a career-high 27.0 points, missed nine consecutive games in December with an ankle injury, while second-leading scorer Rashard Lewis was sidelined 22 with a torn tendon in his right hand.
Lewis returned to play the final three games before the break, averaging 19.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. Allen scored 31 points against the Suns, his 15th 30-point performance of the season, and had 12 Sunday in his seventh All-Star appearance to help the West beat the East 153-132.
The Sonics are trying to improve their 14-13 mark at home against a Grizzlies squad that is a dismal 3-23 on the road. Memphis, beginning a three-game stretch away from home, has the fewest road wins in the NBA behind Seattle and Golden State, which each have six.
The Grizzlies fell 114-104 to Indiana on Wednesday despite a career-high 31 points from rookie Rudy Gay and a double-double from Pau Gasol.
"I was taking good shots," said Gay, who went 13-for-19 from the field. "I have been put in these situations before, so I knew how to take advantage of them."
Gay continued that strong play Friday when he scored 22 points for the rookies in the Rookie Challenge, but they lost 155-144 to the sophomores. Memphis' Mike Miller was eliminated after the first round of the 3-Point Shootout during All-Star weekend despite recording 18 points - the highest score by a first-round loser since 1996.
Miller had 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a 134-126 double overtime victory over the Sonics on Dec. 18. Chucky Atkins scored 28 points off the bench for the Grizzlies in that contest, including a 30-foot desperation shot at the end of the first overtime to force a second.
Lewis led Seattle with a season-high 36 points and 14 rebounds while Luke Ridnour added 22 points and 10 assists. Gasol is averaging 24.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in his last 10 games against the Sonics.
Memphis has won four of the last five meetings between these teams following a stretch in which Seattle won 32 of 36 matchups.
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