While the San Antonio Spurs seem to be peaking at the right time, the Memphis Grizzlies have appeared to hit a wall.
Trips to San Antonio have proved historically difficult for Memphis, which will try to recover from back-to-back blowouts Sunday night while denying the Spurs their 13th win in 16 games.
San Antonio (46-26) has opened a three-game homestand with wins over fellow Western Conference playoff contenders Oklahoma City and Dallas. After routing the Thunder by 39 points, the Spurs allowed the Mavericks to cut a 21-point deficit to four in the third quarter before pulling away to win 94-76.
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San Antonio moved 1 1/2 games ahead of seventh-place Dallas and could be facing a first-round playoff series against Memphis (50-23), which is second in the West but has seen its Southeast Division lead drop to a half-game over Houston.
The Grizzlies, whose 9-9 record since Feb. 25 is 10th-best among West teams, are looking to win this season series for the first time since 2004-05. They’ve won the past two meetings after losing the first, but all of those games were in December, and Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard missed both of the Spurs’ defeats.
"It’s the West," Parker said. "It never stops, never stops. Another big one. Memphis has been playing well all season long; they’re a great test for us."
The Grizzlies, though, didn’t provide much of a challenge for two of the NBA’s top teams in their last two games, losing at home to Cleveland and Golden State by a combined 45 points.
"Each one of our players needs to look in the mirror and see what we can do better as a team," forward Zach Randolph said after Friday’s 107-84 defeat to the Warriors. "The last two games, this hasn’t been us. We haven’t been making shots inside the perimeter. Defense hasn’t really been there. We just have to keep working."
The Grizzlies have won just eight of their 45 games in San Antonio, including the playoffs, but snapped a 10-game losing streak there with a 117-116 triple-overtime victory Dec. 17. The Spurs have won 19 of 22 at home, including the last four by an average of 23.7 points.
Marc Gasol, who banked in a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer of that triple-OT win, is averaging a team-leading 23.7 points and 10.0 rebounds in the season series. He has only eight rebounds over the past two games and Randolph has just six while getting held to 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
Conversely, fellow big man Boris Diaw of the Spurs has stepped up with 19 points in each of the past two games. San Antonio is 10-1 when he scores at least 14, including four wins in the past two weeks.
"I feel like it’s directly related to the team and the way we’re playing. I try to fit into that and help in any way, and that’s always been my motto as a player," Diaw said. "… I’ve been feeling good the last few games and we’ve been winning a lot of games lately."
While Diaw is a dismal 7 of 21 from the field in the season series with the Grizzlies, Leonard has shot 72.3 percent in his last five home matchups versus Memphis and has gone 13 of 17 from 3-point range.
Mike Conley has averaged 23.8 points and shot 14 for 26 from 3-point range in his last six meetings with San Antonio.