Grizzlies vs. Pelicans: A Grind to the Finish

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Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies will face the New Orleans Pelicans for the 4th and final time of the regular season. The Pelicans currently lead the season series 2-1; so, tonight the Grizzlies are looking to split it. The Grizzlies have been resting since a double header weekend that ended in a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday and a loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday. The Pelicans will come to Memphis after defeating the league leading Golden State Warriors in the Smoothie King Center last night. That win not only allowed the Pelicans to slide ahead of the Thunder for the 8th playoff contention spot, but it also secured a winning season for them for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Winning tonight is important for both teams.

Why do the Pelicans WANT to win?

This isn’t the first time that the Grizzlies have seen Quincy Pondexter since he was traded. This is, however, his first return back to Memphis. Though opinions of his place as a part of the Grizzlies organization waned, most fans can agree that Pondexter was a likeable player. Count on this being an emotional game for him…but not emotional enough that he doesn’t show up with an ax to grind. In the last meeting, Pondexter had only 3 points (1-4 FGs). Last night against the Warriors, he had 20 points (6-7 FGs). The thing about Pondexter is you never know which one is going to show up. So, let’s hope for an off night from him.

Secondly, though the team hasn’t looked much like it lately, the Grizzlies are still a dominant force in this league. They are still a team to be reckoned with. Anytime you can dominate a team like that, it speaks volumes of the will and talent of your team. Winning the season series against the Grizzlies isn’t something that you shrug over; it’s a pat your back moment.

While the Pelicans hold the 8th spot right now and the tiebreaker against the Thunder (who’s right behind in 9), don’t look for the Thunder to lie down and fall out of the fight. Expect determining the occupant of the 8th spot to come down to the very end. Neither of them is looking to lose a game. Having a winning season is nice; going to the playoffs is nicer though. Given the injuries both of the teams have seen this season, being this close to the playoffs isn’t an opportunity that either one of them is taking lightly. They’re both fighting hard to make it in. A win tonight gets the Pelicans a step closer though, and they know it.

Why do the Grizzlies NEED to win?

All teams hit a slump, a rough patch, a bump in the road. It just looks as if the Grizzlies have hit theirs at the wrong time. Shots that are normally made have been missed. Defensively, it seems as if there is a breakdown. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Are the offensive mishaps causing the defensive lapse or is the defensive lapse causing the offensive mishaps? It’s hard to say. In either case, the Grizzlies need this win, and as many more wins as they can get in the next 5 games, as a confidence booster heading into the playoffs. The Grind to Greatness has been slow lately. The idea of Chasing Greater isn’t lost though. The team knows how to win; they’ve just got to get back to consistently doing. Regaining confidence in themselves and confidence in each other is the surest way to do that. A winning streak has to start again somewhere. It may as well start tonight.

The Grizzlies aren’t playing to get into the playoffs like the Pelicans. They clinched their playoff berth a couple of weeks ago when they got to 50 wins. The problem is they haven’t gotten much further since the clinch. So, a team that was once comfortably ranked number two in the Western Conference and number one in the Southwest Division is now in the midst of a shuffle that could push them as far down as sixth in the Western Conference and third in the Southwest Division. Yes, sixth and third. March was a very tough month for the Grizzlies in terms of competition. Unfortunately, April hasn’t come in much better. Somehow the grit and grind mentality that is the team has gotten lost. Add to that a few minor injuries (nothing season ending), and you’ve got a recipe for struggling on your hand.

The last time these two teams faced each other was in the Smoothie King Center a month ago. The Grizzlies came out clicking on all cylinders. They looked like a well oiled machine. They closed the first half up by 12 points. Then, the wheels fell off. The bottom fell out. It looked as if the Bad News Bears came out for the Grizzlies the second half. They ended up losing the game by 6 points. It wasn’t the loss, per se, but rather how they lost that was more concerning. The two losses that the Grizzlies have against the Pelicans were in the Smoothie King Center. It’s only fair that they return the favor and let the Pelicans two losses happen in Fed Ex Forum.

Interestingly enough, the teams are about even in wins over the course of the last 5 seasons. Over the last 19 meetings, the Grizzlies have won 9 games to the Pelicans (Hornets) 10 games. A win tonight evens out the 2014-15 season and evens out the last 5 seasons. Another fun fact is that should the Pelicans maintain that 8th spot, all 5 teams in the Southwest Division will make the playoffs. The Western Conference is tough; the Southwest Division it appears is tougher.

Hopefully, the Grizzlies’ next to last home game for the regular season will not disappoint. It should be a grind from start to finish. Don’t miss this battle. Come out to the Grindhouse or tune in to SportsSouth or 92.9 FM at 7 p.m. to catch the action.

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