Riddled with injuries, the Memphis Grizzlies are doing all they can to keep their heads above water before the playoffs.
The Grizzlies look to avoid losing three straight for the first time since early November in Wednesday night's season series finale against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.
Playing nine men and starting the likes of Ryan Hollins and Briante Weber, Memphis (39-28) was routed 130-81 at Houston on Monday. The Grizzlies yielded their most points of 2015-16 while shooting 29.7 percent, their second-lowest effort of the season, and letting Houston hit 54.1 percent of their shots.
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Though Memphis has a firm grasp on the fifth seed in the Western Conference, it's dropped four of six and hardly resembles a playoff team.
''Half our team is D-League,'' veteran Matt Barnes said. ''But nobody is going to feel bad for us. … We play hard, and that's the one thing I tell these guys, no matter what the outcome of the game is or whether or not the shots are falling, you can always control your effort.''
That effort might not be good enough without their top players on the floor.
Leading scorer Marc Gasol is out for the season, while point guard Mike Conley has missed the last five games and likely won't return until early next month. Forwards Zach Randolph and Chris Andersen could both sit out a sixth consecutive contest while Lance Stephenson might miss his second straight and Vince Carter a third in a row.
The Grizzlies have been held to fewer than 85 points in two straight games, shot 37.8 percent in four contests and yielded an average of 111.2 and 47.3 shooting in the last six.
“Each game is going to have to be a big game for us,” said forward Tony Allen, who had five points on 2-of-10 shooting Monday.
Memphis, which dropped a season-high four straight Nov. 5-11, has won five of six at home. That stretch began with a 109-104 victory over Minnesota (21-46) on Feb. 19.
Second-year forward JaMychal Green pulled down 11 rebounds to help the Grizzlies improve to 2-1 on the season series.
Andrew Wiggins has shot 58.8 percent against the Grizzlies this season and averaged 21.3 points in the last four in the series.
Averaging 23.2 points and shooting 55.3 percent in the last five games, Wiggins scored 22 on Monday but the Timberwolves fell for the sixth time in eight games, 107-104 at Phoenix. Minnesota led by 10 at the half but shot 34.1 percent and was outrebounded 31-19 in the final two quarters, losing on Mirza Teletovic's 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.
''We gave this one away,'' said guard Zach LaVine, who scored 28 points. ''We should have come out and had a better outing in the third quarter and been more aggressive and more efficient and little more smart with our play.”
Minnesota's Ricky Rubio had 13 points and matched a career high with 17 assists. He's averaged 10.3 assists in his last three games against Memphis.
LaVine scored 22 at Memphis last month and is 9 of 14 from 3-point range against the Grizzlies this season.