While they’ve been difficult to beat on their own floor, the Memphis Grizzlies haven’t been nearly as sharp on the road.
That’s a trend they’re hoping to reverse as they travel to face the league’s worst team.
Memphis resumes its pursuit of the first division title in the team’s 20-year history Monday night when it takes on the New York Knicks, who are three losses from equaling the franchise’s single-season record.
Coupled with Houston’s loss to Phoenix, the Grizzlies (49-21) extended their advantage in the Southwest Division and on second place in the Western Conference to 2 1/2 games with Saturday’s 97-86 win over visiting Portland.
Jeff Green finished with 23 points and hit five of the team’s season high-tying 11 3-pointers. Mike Conley added 21 points and nine assists, while Tony Allen had 10 points, 11 rebounds and six steals.
Green has averaged 19.7 points and made 10 of 16 from beyond the arc in three games since scoring just 10.0 per game over his previous four. He was back in the starting lineup Saturday with Courtney Lee sidelined due to a right hand sprain.
”Same confidence, same approach, just shots are starting to fall,” said Green, who totaled 55 points in his last two games versus New York while with Boston. ”Just continuing to be aggressive and play off of (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph).”
The Grizzlies have been dominant at FedExForum, going 15-3 while limiting opponents to 88.4 points per game since Dec. 30. However, they’ve dropped four of six on the road while giving up an average of 99.0.
Memphis should be able to play better at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks have lost seven of their last nine. They also dropped their third in a row and 10th in 12 games overall in Sunday’s 106-89 loss at Toronto.
Lance Thomas had a career-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but Andrea Bargnani was the only other player to score in double figures with 16. New York (14-56) is averaging just 88.7 points on 40.6 percent shooting in its last 12.
Making things worse, Alexey Shved scored nine in 17 minutes before leaving with bruised ribs. The guard entered the contest averaging 18.6 points and sinking 21 of 52 (40.4 percent) from 3-point range over his previous nine games.
Shved, along with rookie forward Travis Wear (sore back), are uncertain to play against the Grizzlies.
”As we were losing bodies and also playing from behind all afternoon, it was just a tough go,” coach Derek Fisher said.
The Knicks, who also have sustained injuries to Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony, Cleanthony Early and Tim Hardaway Jr., will have to go 9-3 down the stretch to avoid setting a franchise record with 60 defeats.
The Grizzlies have won five of six meetings following a 105-83 home win Jan. 5. They held a 45-37 edge on the glass and a 58-26 advantage in the paint despite playing without Randolph, the team’s leading rebounder (11.0 per game).
Quincy Acy had 19 points and 14 rebounds, but New York missed 18 of 26 from 3-point range and committed 21 turnovers while playing without Bargnani, Anthony and several other key players.
Allen has totaled 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting in his last two visits for Memphis, which plays six of seven at home after facing the Knicks.