Third seed in the NBA play-offs out of the Western Conference is still up for grabs and the Memphis Grizzlies can edge closer towards that consolation prize if they beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night. The Griz are currently on the same record as Denver at 54-25 but the Nuggets hold the tie-breaker. The Clips are just one win adrift but they know that their seeding will be no lower than fourth by virtue of their status as Atlantic Division champions.
Memphis, however, are a team to watch in the forthcoming post-season. They’re first overall in fewest points conceded at 89.4 per game and while they have the third-least possessions per game at 92.6, that is just the kind of style that fits in the play-offs. Although the mid-season trade of Rudy Gay looked initially to have weakened them offensively, they’re still 14th in the NBA in points scored per 100 possessions and second only to Indiana in points allowed on the same basis.
Should they stay as third seed, it would likely keep them apart from the Oklahoma City Thunder until the Conference Finals. Over the last three seasons, the Grizzlies are a superlative 7-7 against OKC - food for thought when you consider Memphis remain outstanding value at 28.0 to win the West.
A win over Houston on Friday, when they held the league’s most potent offense to just 78 points, extended the Grizzlies' current winning streak to three. The Clippers have won four in a row but they had to overcome poor shooting to edge out lowly New Orleans by three. Memphis are likely to cause LA a similar headache so back them to cover a handicap of -3.5 points. The total points should stay under the line of 181.5, available at 1.91.
Elsewhere, Kobe Bryant is likely done for the rest of this season after sustaining what is thought to be a torn Achilles in Friday’s win for the LA Lakers over Golden State. However, his 34 points, including two free throws made when he had to hobble back onto court following his injury, was a massive factor in keeping his team one win ahead of Utah in the race for the last play-off berth in the NBA.
With just games left, it’s a toss-up over which side will make the post-season. But realistically, for either the Conference or Championship titles, it’s game over for the Lakers.
Best bet: Take Memphis to beat the LA Clippers