The Memphis Grizzlies are currently holding on to a four-game lead over the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a rather stunning result given the young Grizz were expected to finish near the bottom of the West.
That Memphis is in the position they are would be impressive enough if they were at full strength, but they’ve been maintaining a healthy lead for the eight seed despite being without a few key pieces lately. Second year big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been out with left knee soreness, Justise Winslow — their big acquisition from the Heat in the Andre Iguodala trade — has been out with back soreness, and rookie Brandon Clarke has been out with a quad strain, and yet they’ve continued to keep the Pelicans, Blazers, and others at bay.
On Monday, the team provided positive updates on all three players, noting that Jackson Jr. and Winslow are expected to make their returns to the lineup next week while Clarke is progressing and should return at some point this season.
The @memgrizz today provided medical updates for forwards Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow.
Press release below. pic.twitter.com/AkeJlUjW1v
— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) March 9, 2020
With a tough closing stretch, getting back close to full strength will be important, as Memphis’s upcoming schedule sees them face the Magic, Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans on a home and home back-to-back, Celtics, and the Raptors on a home and home back-to-back. That is a brutal 11-game stretch, and if they are to withstand that they’ll need not just the continued excellent play from Ja Morant and company, but some of his important supporting pieces and co-stars back on the floor around him.