With only a few games separating fifth and ninth place in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies are trying to make sure they’re not the team left out of the playoffs.
The surging Grizzlies have a chance to draw even with the sixth-place Golden State Warriors as they continue a five-game trip Friday night in Oakland.
Since sitting at the bottom of the Southwest Division at 15-19, Memphis (43-28) has climbed the conference standings by winning 28 of its last 37. Only San Antonio, which has won 15 straight games, has a better winning percentage since Jan. 10.
Zach Randolph finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday – including two free throws with 11 seconds remaining – to help the Grizzlies win their third in a row and ninth in 11 games, 91-87 at Utah.
Mike Conley added 19 points and is averaging 21.0 on 61.0 percent shooting over the last three games. The Grizzlies rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to move a season-best 15 games over .500.
Memphis, Portland, Golden State, Dallas and Phoenix are fighting for the final four playoff berths in the West with three weeks left in the regular season. The Grizzlies, 15-4 in their last 19 games against West clubs, are set to visit Portland on Sunday after taking on the Warriors (44-27).
"We know how important each of these games are for us," said Marc Gasol, who had 18 points and seven rebounds.
Memphis can move into a tie with Golden State if it can continue its run of success in Oakland. The Grizzlies haven’t lost on the road in the series since 2010, winning the last five visits while limiting the Warriors to 88.8 points per game.
With Stephen Curry sidelined because of a mild concussion, they managed just 75 points in regulation while missing 13 of 18 shots from 3-point range overall in an 88-81 overtime home loss Nov. 20.
Golden State will try to bounce back in this meeting after having five days off following Saturday’s 99-90 home loss to a San Antonio team that played without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The Warriors shot just 40.3 percent and missed 12 of 15 from long range as their three-game winning streak ended.
"It’s a disappointing loss," said coach Mark Jackson, whose squad has matched the Grizzlies’ 13-5 mark since the All-Star break. "It’ll make us better."
The Warriors could get a boost with the return of starting swingman Andre Iguodala, who has missed the last three games with tendinitis in his right knee.
They’ve been all or nothing offensively since March 5, averaging 110.1 points with a 50.1 field-goal percentage in seven wins and scoring just 94.0 on 43.2 percent shooting in three losses over that span.
That doesn’t bode well heading into a matchup with the Grizzlies, who have allowed an NBA-low 90.2 points per game since Gasol returned from a left knee sprain on Jan. 14.
While the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was sidelined, Golden State snapped an 11-game skid in the series Dec. 7 by shooting 50.0 percent and hitting 8 of 18 from 3-point range in a 108-82 win at Memphis.
Klay Thompson led the way with 30 points, David Lee scored 23 with 11 rebounds, and Curry had 22 points and 15 assists. Curry has scored 27.8 per game over his last four contests while going 13 of 27 from 3-point range.
Gasol has averaged 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in his last three meetings with the Warriors.