Grizzlies at Jazz Preview - 3/26/14
By NOEY KUPCHAN
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The Memphis Grizzlies understand the importance of their upcoming road trip, which could go a long way in determining their playoff fate.
While there could be bumps and bruises along the way, the Grizzlies would appear to have a good chance to at least kick things off on the right foot.
Looking to continue its postseason push, Memphis goes for its first season sweep of the Utah Jazz in nine years Wednesday night.
The Grizzlies (42-28) own the NBA's third-best winning percentage since Jan. 10, going 27-9 to climb into the Western Conference playoff picture. They are vying with Dallas and Phoenix for the final two playoff berths with three weeks left in the regular season.
Memphis plays its next five on the road, with visits to Golden State, Portland, Denver and Minnesota in store after this game. The Grizzlies are 14-4 in their last 18 against fellow West teams.
"This is going to be a big road trip for us," guard Courtney Lee told the NBA's official website. "A lot of big games, but we have to take it one game at a time. Most of the teams that we are playing are ... going to be ready to go."
The Grizzlies have taken six of seven from the Jazz, including a pair of 10-point victories at home this season. They won 96-86 last Wednesday behind a combined 41 points and 21 rebounds from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Memphis hasn't swept Utah since taking all three meetings in 2004-05.
The Grizzlies are seeking a third consecutive win overall after easily getting by Minnesota 109-92 on Monday. Mike Conley led the way with 23 points and Gasol added 14 to go with 12 boards.
Memphis, which went up 93-68 after opening the fourth quarter with 12 consecutive points, outscored the Timberwolves 66-42 in the paint and held a 54-42 edge on the glass.
"We just wanted to jump out there as early as we could, set the tempo and try to get ahead of them," said Conley, averaging 18.6 points on 54.0 percent shooting over the last five games.
The Jazz (23-48) are coming off Monday's 114-94 loss to Detroit, their 12th defeat in 14 games. Utah allowed the Pistons to shoot a season-high 55.4 percent in snapping a 13-game road losing streak.
"It's too difficult when you let teams get going like this. They feel good about all the shots they get," said coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team has dropped 15 straight when allowing at least 102 points.
Gordon Hayward scored 32 for his second-highest mark this season, but nobody else had more than 15. The Jazz were 7 of 27 from 3-point range and outrebounded 53-33.
"It's tough, but we've just got to continue to learn," rookie point guard Trey Burke said. "They had more energy than us early on and when we did try and make a push, it was kind of too late."
Utah is 1-4 in its last five at home, with its only win coming 89-88 over last-place Orlando on Saturday. Memphis is 6-7 on the road since the start of February.
Grizzlies guard Tony Allen missed Monday's game with a stomach illness, leaving his status for this one unclear. Jazz guard Alec Burks (ankle) is unlikely to play.
Randolph is averaging 21.7 points over 29 games against Utah since 2003-04, tied for his second-highest mark against any opposing club during that time.
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