Suns-Grizzlies Game Preview: April 11
Posted: April 10, 2012
The Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns have been steadily climbing the Western Conference standings. While the Grizzlies want to reach the No. 4 spot, the Suns would be happy with any seed.
Strong bench play has been boosting both teams' playoff standing going into their matchup Wednesday night in Memphis.
The Grizzlies (33-23) were under .500 as of Feb. 7 but have since gone 21-10, fifth-best in the league during that span. They've won eight of 10 to move within one-half game of the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the West and home-court advantage in the first round - something they've never had in any playoff series.
"Everyone is really close, and we moved that much closer to the fourth spot," guard O.J. Mayo said after a 94-85 win over the Clippers on Monday. "We've just got to keep playing well."
So do the Suns (30-27), who have the NBA's fourth-best record since the All-Star break at 16-7. They've jumped to ninth in the West, close on the heels of Dallas and Denver for the conference's final two playoff spots.
"Now everything means something by playing for the playoffs," guard Sebastian Telfair said after Monday's 114-90 victory at Minnesota.
Telfair is one of the reserves playing a key role lately for the Suns, winners of seven of 10. He's totaled 27 points and 14 assists over the past two games as Phoenix's bench has averaged 62.0 points, 16.5 rebounds and 12.5 assists.
Suns reserves have scored 40.2 points per game since March 18, third-most in the league. Former All-Star Michael Redd has averaged 17.2 off the bench in the last five.
"These last four or five games, I mean, they've carried us," forward Jared Dudley said of the second unit. "They've carried the starters, they've done well."
The Memphis reserves have averaged 39.7 points over the past seven games, led by Mayo's 15.9 per game, as the team has gone 6-1.
Zach Randolph, a 2011 All-Star, continues to come off the bench but has posted three straight double-doubles after having one in his first 12 games back after missing 2 1/2 months with a knee injury.
Another key to the Grizzlies' hot play is solid defense, allowing an average of 90.2 points in their last nine games. Marc Gasol has averaged 2.4 blocks in the past eight. Mike Conley is second in the league with 2.3 steals per game, while Tony Allen (1.7) and Rudy Gay (1.5) rank among the top 20.
Memphis has won 11 of 13 at home, with both losses coming in overtime.
The Suns have won five of seven on the road, but only one of those victories came against a team which currently has a better record.
Phoenix is looking to sweep a season series from the Grizzlies for the first time since winning all three meetings in 2007-08, when it averaged 128.7 points. The Suns have scored 92.0 per game in two matchups this season - both in Phoenix.
These teams are separated by just 3 1/2 games with 10 to go for Memphis and nine for Phoenix.
"It's the wild, wild West," Mayo said. "You look in the (East), when you get down to the last five or six games, a lot of teams pretty much start resting. In the West, that's not possible. Every game counts down the stretch."
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