After winning the opener to their longest road trip in four seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff hopes have taken a hit with back-to-back defeats.
Judging by their history in Denver, a visit to the Pepsi Center wouldn’t seem ideal for the Grizzlies to avoid their longest skid in about 3 1/2 months, but they might be catching the Nuggets at an opportune time Monday night.
Memphis (43-30) earned its 16th win in 21 games Wednesday, 91-87 against Utah to begin its five-game trek. The Grizzlies, however, haven’t played their usually stingy defense in the two contests since then and are now one-half game behind Phoenix and Dallas in the race for the Western Conference’s final two playoff berths.
The Mavericks and Suns are idle Monday, giving Memphis a chance to make up that slim deficit with a win.
The Grizzlies, yielding a conference-low 94.2 points per game this season, allowed an opponent to reach triple digits for the first time in 12 contests in a 100-93 loss to sixth-place Golden State on Friday. The Grizzlies then allowed their most in one game in a little more than a month in a 105-98 defeat to Portland on Sunday.
"Portland came out more aggressive and played with more energy," coach David Joerger said. "They have a ton of playmakers and they made us chase them all around the floor."
No opponent had scored more than 104 points on Joerger’s team since a 113-107 defeat at Southwest Division-leading Oklahoma City on Feb. 28. The back-to-back losses are the first for Memphis since Feb. 3-5, and it hasn’t dropped three in a row since a season-high five straight defeats Dec. 11-18.
Memphis had trouble slowing down Denver (32-41) in the most recent matchup, a 111-108 loss in Colorado on Jan. 3. The Nuggets shot 53.8 percent – their fourth-best performance of the season – in its 28th win in the last 30 visits from the Grizzlies.
The franchise is 4-31 all-time in Denver and has lost each of its past three trips there, but will face a short-handed Nuggets team that might have lost some motivation.
Denver will end a streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances this season and was eliminated Wednesday with the second of its current string of three straight losses, 108-103 in San Antonio. The Nuggets were blown out 133-102 by the NBA’s leading team Friday, ending a five-game home win streak.
They allowed the Spurs to shoot 56.1 percent and make 13 of 24 from 3-point range.
"That was an embarrassing loss," coach Brian Shaw said. "Just from every standpoint of the game – defensively, body language, energy, just embarrassing."
The Nuggets have four players who are out for the season after J.J. Hickson needed surgery for a torn right ACL, suffered in a 122-106 loss in Dallas on March 21. Wilson Chandler hasn’t played since that game because of an ailing hip and groin.
Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov were also playing through illnesses in Friday’s loss. Faried had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his third straight double-double, which matched a season high.
Chandler had 19 points and Ty Lawson scored a team-leading 20 in a 120-99 loss in Memphis on Dec. 28. Zach Randolph paced the Grizzlies with 20 points in that game and is averaging 22.5 in this season’s series, his best performance against any opponent he’s faced more than once in 2013-14.
Randolph had 25 points and 13 rebounds in the loss in Denver in January.