The Memphis Grizzlies did not look like a playoff team a couple of months ago. Marc Gasol, last season's Defensive Player of the Year, was nursing an ankle injury and Memphis' usually stingy defense was somewhere in the bottom half of the league.
The Grizzlies are 26-10 since Gasol returned to the lineup on Jan. 14 and they would face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round if the season ended today. But that recent success hasn't given Memphis any breathing room because the Dallas Mavericks are right on the trail.
Memphis' winning percentage (59.7) barely edges out Dallas (59.5) and the Mavericks would claim the eighth spot if the Grizzlies were to drop their next game. And then there's the Phoenix Suns, who are just a half game up on both Memphis and Dallas.
A Memphis win would tie Phoenix's record and one Phoenix loss would level it with Dallas. OK so this is really confusing, let's just look at the Western Conference standings.
|San Antonio1x||57||16||0.781||0.0||34-10||10-3||29-8||28-8||10-0||W 17|
|Oklahoma City2x||53||19||0.736||3.5||31-13||10-5||30-7||23-12||7-3||W 1|
|L.A. Clippers3x||52||22||0.703||5.5||31-13||9-4||31-5||21-17||8-2||W 2|
|Golden State6||45||27||0.625||11.5||25-18||9-5||24-12||21-15||7-3||W 1|
|New Orleanso||32||41||0.438||25.0||13-30||3-11||20-17||12-24||6-4||L 1|
|L.A. Lakerso||24||48||0.333||32.5||12-30||5-7||13-22||11-26||3-7||L 2|
The Eastern Conference is a little less dramatic. The New York Knicks have clawed their way up and are just 1.5 games back of the flailing Atlanta Hawks, who have loss six straight games. What's especially bizarre about the Hawks recent downfall is that they won five straight before the current losing streak started.
Two months ago, we were talking about Atlanta as a potential three-seed. Now, it's a real possibility that it will miss the postseason altogether.
Al Horford's pectoral injury was especially damaging. Horford was playing like an All-Star and was the catalyst of Atlanta's offense and defense. Before his departure, the Hawks had a net rating of plus-2.4. Now both their offense and defense has swung about four points in opposite directions. Their net rating with Horford out is minus-4.5, according to NBA.com/stats.
The door is now open for the Knicks to make a late run into the playoffs. New York has shot itself in the foot over and over this season, but it has a real chance to play in the postseason. That would help ease what has been a painful year.
Here are the full standings in the East:
|New York||30||43||0.411||22.0||21-24||6-6||16-21||14-22||7-3||L 1|