With a quartet of losses and a tough road ahead, the Memphis Grizzlies may fail to win a game in Orlando.
Coming into the NBA bubble, the Memphis Grizzlies had to be buzzing with confidence. A stellar head coach in Taylor Jenkins, soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, a number of young talents and a 3.5-game gap separating them from ninth place all made the Grizzlies the unquestioned favorite for the 8-seed out West.
Since then, things could not have gone any worse. An 0-4 start in four winnable games (against three teams out of the playoffs entirely) has added immense pressure to Memphis’ spot, while Jaren Jackson Jr. will be sidelined for the rest of the season due to a torn meniscus along with Justise Winslow, who has yet to suit up for the Grizz.
That combination of circumstances has not only made a play-in game for the 8-seed a guarantee, but it’s also raised some questions as to whether Memphis will even win a game in the bubble, especially considering who’s on tap for their next four.
The easy part of the schedule is over now, and the tough road began Tuesday afternoon in a losing battle with the Utah Jazz. To end the eight seeding games, Memphis will face all playoff teams, and dangerous ones too: the Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and a season finale with the Milwaukee Bucks. Unless teams with their position locked in rest their starters, the Grizz certainly won’t be favored in any one of those games.
Will Memphis be able to make the playoffs without a single bubble victory?
Sure, Memphis is highly capable of pulling off an upset — just look at what happened for the Brooklyn Nets the other night. The more interesting conversation here is if Memphis will be able to maintain a playoff spot despite its unexpected struggles.
Looking at the standings, the race for that No. 9 spot is red hot. The Portland Trail Blazers earned a massive victory over the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, while the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans are close behind. All three teams have already defeated Memphis in the bubble.
Easily the most intriguing team is the Phoenix Suns, undefeated in their first three behind Devin Booker’s heroics. There could be endless debate about who ends up grabbing the ninth-place spot, with all in tremendous form, but whoever it is, all signs point to a play-in victory with Memphis heading in the wrong direction.
It would be unfortunate for the Grizzlies, but there are too many things working against them to expect a playoff statement or possibly even a win in the bubble. Don’t let that put a damper on the impressive season the Grizz have had, though, or their expectations for the future.