The Grizzlies racked up yet another win last night, dispatching the Portland Trailblazers by a final of 94-75. The win put the Grizzlies at 51-24, giving them a new franchise record for wins. There was just one problem: the Nuggets won, too. Now, their record is also 51-24, and since they have the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies, that would give them the 3-seed.
Even worse, despite having a better record than the Clippers, the Grizz would also lose home court to them, because division winners automatically first a round first playoff system. So, if the playoffs were to start today, the Grizz would be heading to Los Angeles for games 1 and 2. It’s easy to gripe about how the system has wound up hurting the Grizzlies, but the optimistic approach would be to ask whether or not this represents all that much of a setback.
The Grizzlies have been a surprisingly strong road team this year. After beating the Blazers in Portland, the Grizzlies record improved to 21-16, meaning that if they dropped their final four road games (a highly unlikely occurrence), they would still have a winning percentage on the road. The Grizzlies – just like every other NBA franchise – are a better team at home than on the road, but this year, they’ve made it clear that they don’t become incompetent once they set foot in an opposing team’s arena. As the Blazers 76 points last night illustrates, the Grizzlies’ grit-and-grind show is looking like more and more of a traveling act.
If things stay as they are now, and the Grizzlies are stuck with the 5-seed, would it hurt really hurt them that much? One of their biggest wins of the season came last month when they managed to beat the Clippers at the Staples Center. Additionally, in last year’s 1st round series with the Clips, the Grizzlies managed to pickup a huge win in L.A. to force a seventh game in Memphis. They ended up losing that game, but the point is, the Grizzlies are capable of beating the Clippers at the Staples Center, and they should be able to win on any other team’s home court as well.
If the Nuggets become an opponent of the Grizzlies in these playoffs, the altitude question could come into play (especially given the general hard time the Grizzlies have had against them this year) , but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Tony Allen’s perimeter defense can flummox opposing guards whether we’re a mile above sea level or not.
The Grizzlies may be stuck without home court this time around, but it won’t be their death knell. Keep in mind, the only series this team has ever won came when they were an 8-seed. Winning games – even big playoff games – on opponent’s courts is not a roadblock for the Grizzlies. Maybe they’ll overcome the Nuggets and grab the 3-seed, but if they don’t, they’ll be just fine.