ATLANTA — If the Atlanta Hawks want to make a late-season push to grab homecourt advantage for the playoffs, now is the time to do it.
Only two of Atlanta’s next 10 opponents have a winning record. That means the door is open for the Hawks, fifth in the Eastern Conference, to make a run at fourth-place Toronto, which is two games ahead.
The favorable stretch begins on Thursday night, when Atlanta (37-30) hosts Memphis (38-31). The Grizzlies haven’t won in Atlanta since Feb. 8, 2014. Memphis has won two straight after losing five in a row.
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Atlanta has won the last three meetings against the Grizzlies, the most recent a 107-90 rout on March 11 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. In that contest, the Hawks opened the game with a 10-2 run and opened the second half with a 10-4 run and won wire-to-wire. Atlanta rookie Taurean Price scored a career-high 17 points.
Atlanta has not played since Monday, when the Hawks were beaten 107-99 in San Antonio, which got star Kawhi Leonard back from a concussion. San Antonio made 16 3-pointers against the Hawks, who have the third-worst 3-point defense in the NBA.
Despite the loss — Atlanta’s 16th straight in San Antonio, there were positives.
“Still learning. Still growing,” Atlanta guard Kent Bazemore said. “I like where we are. We are still playing hard. We are going to continue to fight. I really good about this team and the season we’ve had, grinding to get win. Come playoff time that’s going to help us out.”
The Hawks have received solid play over the last four games from point guard Dennis Schroder. After being benched for the final quarter-and-a-half against Golden State, Schroder has averaged 23.5 points in the last four games. He has scored in double figures in 16 straight games. He was a nominee for the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week.
Memphis is in seventh place in the Western Conference and has no realistic chance of getting a homecourt playoff advantage. However, the Grizzlies are only one game out of sixth place, which would allow them to avoid a first-round series against either Golden State or San Antonio.
The Grizzlies will be tested on the second game of back-to-back road series. They won at Chicago on Wednesday night, outslugging the Bulls 98-91. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each scored 27 points for Memphis.
Memphis will be without forward Chandler Parsons for the rest of the season. He was diagnosed with a partial tear of his left meniscus. He was averaging 6.2 points and had started 34 games. That will likely put more pressure on 40-year-old Vince Carter to pick up the slack. Carter played 28 minutes on Wednesday against the Bulls.
“I just want to do my job,” Carter said. “I don’t really get into anything else than doing my job. I want to try to make the game easier for other guys on the floor. I just wanted to bring my energy and be myself.”
Atlanta made a minor roster move by assigning DeAndre Bembry to the D-League. The Hawks are still waiting for reserve guard Mike Dunleavy to return; he’s missed the last 12 games with an inflamed ankle.
Memphis returns home on Saturday to host San Antonio before it embarks on a four-game road trip. Atlanta hosts Portland on Saturday.