Dec 15, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) and point guard Mike Conley (11) react during a time out in the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Grizzlies won 99-96. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are currently on a very important road trip

 Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the #8 seed in the Western Conference. With the Minnesota Timberwolves 6.5 games back of both teams, it is clear that it is now officially a four team race for the 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds in the West between the Warriors, Suns, Grizzlies, and Mavericks. While a win in November equals a win in April as far as the standings are concerned, the importance of wins at this time of year is much more noticeable. What’s even more noticeable and important are wins on the road. With the Grizzlies currently in the middle of a 5 game road trip,  games on this road trip are as important as games can get in the NBA regular season.

This five game road trip includes games in Utah, Golden State, Portland, Denver, and Minnesota. The game in Utah was a win, the game in Golden State was a loss, and the game in Portland is Sunday night on NBA TV. Realistically speaking, the Grizzlies can be expected  to take two out of the next three road games, which actually wouldn’t be that bad. But with the Denver Nuggets coming to town after this road trip, if the Grizzlies could win these next three games, they should be able to extend their winning streak to 4 before going back on the road to San Antonio. With that game in San Antonio lurking, the Grizzlies should really hope to win the remaining games on this road trip and take care of business against the Nuggets at home. Especially since the Spurs are currently on a 17 game winning streak of their own. I don’t want to pencil in a loss for the Grizzlies in San Antonio, but it is really tempting given the Spurs’ current success.

In order for the Grizzlies to go into San Antonio on a 4 game winning streak, the Grizzlies will need guys outside of Conley, Gasol, and Randolph to step up. Mike Miller had zero points against the Warriors on Friday, which can’t happen if they want to have success on this road trip. In addition to that, the Grizzlies also need to stop the bleeding when the opposition goes on a run. The key to winning on the road is being prepared for the home team to make a run and withstand it. That didn’t happen on Friday in Oakland when the Warriors finished the game on a 14-0 run led by Stephen Curry. The Grizzlies need to learn from Fridays’ loss to the Warriors going forward. They need to get their role players going offensively and they need to withstand runs made by the home team. If they do that, then they’ll find success. If they don’t, they’ll likely lose these next three games.

I think it should be pretty obvious why this road trip is important for the Grizzlies. They’re in a tight race to clinch a playoff berth between four teams, and one loss can make the difference between a 7th seed and missing the playoffs entirely. The Grizzlies know the importance of this road trip as much as anybody. Let’s hope they find success and continue to push towards not only making the playoffs, but also doing damage once they get there.

—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

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