Memphis Grizzlies Peaking as Playoffs Near — Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]
The 76ers, Knicks and Bucks are fighting to claim the seventh and eighth seeds in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff race as the regular season winds dow. In the Western Conference, five teams seek to fill the last three postseason slots. Here’s what’s happening in the NBA this week:
Team on the Rise: Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol’s 18 points helped Memphis (33-23) beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 94-85, on Monday. The win gave the Grizzlies their third straight victory. While Memphis is eight games behind San Antonio in the Southwestern Division, the Grizzlies are just a half-game behind the Clippers in the race for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Veteran guard Gilbert Arenas contributed double-figures in scoring in three of the four games prior to Monday’s win. If Arenas, O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph can produce off the Grizzlies’ bench, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins could have a team that makes a deep run in the playoffs.
Team on the Decline: Philadelphia 76ers
A four-game losing streak has left Philadelphia (29-27) on the verge of missing the playoffs. After leading the Atlantic Division for much of the season, the 76ers are tied with New York for second place, but both teams have just a one-and-a-half game lead on Milwaukee. Philadelphia coach Doug Collins had to be disappointed with his team’s 103-79 loss to the Celtics on Sunday. The 76ers shot just 38 percent from the field and had 16 turnovers in the defeat. Fortunately for Collins, Philadelphia has only three games left on its schedule against teams with a winning record, so there’s still time for his players to rally.
Play of the Week: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
After tying Sunday’s Bulls-Knicks game with a 3-pointer at the end of regulation, New York superstar Carmelo Anthony nailed the game-winning shot in overtime.
Player on the Rise: Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets
Houston (32-25) beat Portland, 94-89, on Monday to notch its fourth straight win. Rockets’ guard Goran Dragic has averaged 21.0 points, 8.0 assists and 2.8 steals during the streak. After scoring 22 points on Monday, Dragic has now reached double figures in scoring in 19 consecutive games. Dragic’s improved play has given Houston a good chance at landing a playoff berth as its competes with Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Utah for the sixth through eighth seeds in the Western Conference.
Player on the Decline: Lamar Odom, Dallas Mavericks
After being a vital part of a Lakers’ team that won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, Lamar Odom was acquired by Dallas (31-26) with the hopes that he could help the Mavericks defend their title in 2012. Instead, Odom is getting an early start to his off-season, as Dallas and the NBA’s 2011 Sixth Man of the Year mutually decided to part ways on Monday. Odom will remain on the Mavericks’ roster, but he will be inactive through the end of the season and the playoffs. While he was never happy in Dallas, Odom may have to prove himself prior to the 2012-13 season. Since Feb. 16, Odom has scored in double figures in just two games.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic
After discovering that his superstar center, Dwight Howard, requested that Orlando (34-23) fire him as coach, Stan Van Gundy told the media about the situation last week. The ensuing circus of probing questions and direct criticisms has cast a cloud over the Magic’s playoff push. It’s clear that the Magic’s front office values Howard more than Van Gundy, which is a fact the coach may have to deal with by the start of next season. While it would take a monumental collapse for Orlando to miss the 2012 playoffs, the late season swoon has almost guaranteed that the Magic will be without home court advantage this postseason.
Bizarre Stat of the Week: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors were outscored by Oklahoma City 24-0 during a nine-minute span on Sunday night. The Raptors’ long scoreless drought lasted from near the end of the third quarter through the first few minutes of the fourth. Oklahoma City beat Toronto, 91-75.