Grizzlies vs. Bobcats preview - 3/8/14
By ALAN FERGUSON
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The Charlotte Bobcats are on track for the franchise's second playoff berth thanks to some strong play at home, but they could use some better performances on the road.
The Bobcats would appear to have another challenge with Saturday night's visit to the Memphis Grizzlies, winners of five in a row on their own floor.
Charlotte (29-33) is seventh in the Eastern Conference and five games ahead of ninth-place Detroit after earning its sixth consecutive home win Friday, 101-92 over Cleveland. Al Jefferson had a team-best 28 points as the Bobcats surpassed their win total from the previous two seasons.
"The playoffs started three weeks ago," Jefferson said. "We're right there. Now we have to turn it on and keep it on. From here on out, we have to be focused and locked in.
"We've got to continue to grow and be professional. We can't be satisfied. Where we're at is a long way from where we were two years ago, but we want to continue to get better.
Kemba Walker chipped in 20 points and 14 assists while helping the club overcome a third consecutive absence from starting guard Gerald Henderson, who has a strained right calf.
Henderson missed the finale of a winless three-game road trip Monday against Miami. The Bobcats, losers of 13 of 19 on the road, also faced two of the West's top two teams during that trek in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies (35-26) are a game out of eighth place in the West, but have the league's second-best record since Jan. 10 at 20-7. One of those losses, though, came at the hands of the Bobcats, who won 92-89 on Feb. 22.
Walker had a team-leading 31 points, including four free throws in the final 24 seconds, as Charlotte ended a three-game skid in the series.
The Bobcats are 2-6 all-time in Memphis and have lost in their last two visits by a combined 52 points.
The Grizzlies enter having taken 11 of 13 in Memphis and secured their longest win streak there this season with a 110-96 victory over Cleveland last Saturday. Memphis has also matched a season high by topping 100 points in its last three home contests.
The Grizzlies fell well short of the century mark Friday in Chicago but earned their third victory in their last four overall. They held the Bulls to less than 15 points in the first and fourth quarters in an 85-77 win.
"Our defense was pretty steady," coach Dave Joerger said. "Thirty-nine in the first half, 38 in the second half. That was just solid for us. We kept them off the glass and they're a good offensive rebounding team. We contested shots and we pressured guys."
Marc Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Zach Randolph had 10 points and 11 boards in his return from a one-game absence due to the flu.
Jefferson has 20 or more points in 22 of his last 25 games but matched a season low with six points on 2-of-13 shooting against Memphis last month. In five games since, he's averaged 29.0 points and shot 63.5 percent.
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