While the Memphis Grizzlies are battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, their next two games will have major implications in the East.
The Grizzlies begin a two-game trip against one of the East's best Wednesday night when they take on the Boston Celtics.
Memphis (39-32) is in eighth place in the West as it starts a road trip in which it will probably be happy to win one game. The Grizzlies visit Chicago on Friday, and the Bulls and Celtics (50-19) are in a tight race for the No. 1 seed in the East.
"We can't lower our heads and say: 'We've got to play two of the best teams coming up on the road,' and be down about it," guard Mike Conley said. "We've got to take the challenge and take it head on."
Boston will be seeking its third season sweep of Memphis in the last four seasons. The Celtics won 116-110 in overtime Nov. 13 behind Paul Pierce's 28 points and Rajon Rondo's 17 assists.
Memphis was led by Rudy Gay's 22 points. The club announced Tuesday that Gay will miss the rest of the season since surgery has been recommended for an injured left shoulder that has kept him out of action since Feb. 22.
The Grizzlies are 8-6 in Gay's absence, winning their second straight 103-85 over Utah on Monday. Zach Randolph had 19 points and 13 boards while Conley had 11 points and 11 assists.
"Each game is a playoff game for us," Randolph said. "We're trying to get there. We're in the last spot. We're trying to hold onto it or move up. So it's important every game to come out and be focused."
Memphis is trying to rely on a more balanced attack without Gay's 19.8 points per game. The Grizzlies placed seven players in double figures Monday.
"The biggest thing I think is that we're having a lot of fun," Conley said. "This whole ordeal has been great for us. Being so close, almost sniffing at a playoff berth, knowing that each game is basically a playoff game for us because it means so much."
The Celtics are 21-0 at home against Eastern foes, compared to 8-6 against the West at TD Garden. Memphis won 111-91 in last season's visit to Boston.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds and Pierce scored 21 as Boston capped a 2-1 road trip with Monday's 96-86 win over New York. The Celtics scored the final 10 points.
The physical game saw Troy Murphy exit with a bloody nose and Ray Allen leave briefly in the third quarter after his head was bloodied by an elbow by Jared Jeffries while going for a rebound. Murphy did not return, but Allen did.
"We've been in every game that you can imagine, big games, so you know we don't really get rattled," Pierce said. "We know how to respond when the games get testy and physical and sometimes we keep our poise, sometimes we don't, but tonight we did."
Grizzlies starting guard Tony Allen will make his first visit to Boston since signing a multiyear deal with Memphis in the offseason. Allen was a 2004 first-round pick by the Celtics, and spent his first six seasons with the club.