Spurs-Grizzlies Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies are looking to set a record for the

longest home win streak in franchise history.

All they have to do is beat the Western Conference’s best team –

and one that’s certainly had their number of late.

The Grizzlies go for a 12th straight win at FedEx Forum on

Monday night against a Spurs team looking to avoid its first

back-to-back losses since mid-December.

Memphis (49-24) has the NBA’s fifth-best home record at 29-8,

limiting opponents to a league-low average of 87.5 points.

The Grizzlies haven’t lost at home in nearly two months, winning

their last 11 home games as they fight for home-court advantage in

the first round of the West playoffs. Memphis is a half-game behind

Denver for the conference’s No. 3 seed.

“We’re trying to get to that third spot, that fourth spot,”

guard Mike Conley said. “We’re right there if we can keep

winning.”

The Grizzlies kept their home dominance going with Friday’s

103-94 win over Houston, following it up a day later with a 99-86

victory at Minnesota. They held the high-scoring Rockets to 42.0

percent overall and limited the Timberwolves to 33.3 percent after

halftime while outscoring them 54-36.

“I thought our defense kept us in the game,” coach Lionel

Hollins told the team’s official website after the win in

Minnesota. “We held them to 36 points in the second half and really

clamped down and took control of the game.”

That may also be necessary against the Spurs (55-18), who lead

the conference by 1 1/2 games on Oklahoma City and are fourth in

the NBA at 104.0 points per game.

Memphis has dropped six of seven meetings. The lone victory in

that stretch came at home Jan. 11, when the Grizzlies won 101-98

after Tony Parker’s 3-pointer at the buzzer forced overtime.

Parker, who had 30 points in that loss and 30 in a win over Memphis

in December, had 17 and 11 assists in a 103-82 home victory on Jan.

16.

The Spurs shot 57.9 percent in that win, the most efficient

performance against Memphis this season.

While San Antonio ran away in that game, each of its first two

visits with the Grizzlies was decided in overtime – and tight

finishes are something the Spurs are getting used to.

Tim Duncan’s three-point play with 2.2 seconds left clinched

Friday’s 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. They were on

the other side of it Sunday, giving up a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds

to play in an 88-86 defeat to a Miami team that rested LeBron James

and Dwyane Wade.

“It’s good experience for us. It’s good situations to put our

team in,” Duncan said of the late-game dramatics. “Hopefully, we

can use that experience down the stretch somewhere and in the

playoffs somewhere. We’re going to stockpile that and hopefully be

able to use it some other time.”

The Spurs last dropped back-to-back games Dec. 17-18. One of

those losses came without Manu Ginobili, who is expected to miss a

second straight with a strained right hamstring.

Parker will try to do a better job picking up the slack after

scoring 12 points with eight assists while making just 4 of 14 from

the floor Sunday.

“Without Manu, Tony is the guy that’s got to generate things for

us,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

Parker isn’t the only Spur who’s had his way with Memphis this

season as Duncan has averaged 19.7 points, 12.7 boards and 3.0

blocks in the series. He’s hardly played like a 16-year-veteran

recently, averaging 24.1 points, 13.0 boards and 2.9 blocks over

eight games since returning from a sore left knee.

The Grizzlies certainly need to fare better in the paint than

they did in the 21-point loss to the Spurs, when they scored a

season-low 26 inside. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were held to 23

points in that game, seven below their combined average.