The Memphis Grizzlies have picked up right where they left off before the All-Star Break. With one of the NBA's best rebounding squads and an inside duo that continues to produce double-doubles, the Grizzlies have run their winning streak to six games.
The Brooklyn Nets had their own four-game winning streak snapped without one of their top players, but hope to get Joe Johnson back Sunday when they host the Grizzlies.
Memphis (36-18) is in the midst of its longest winning streak since stringing together eight in a row after a loss in the season opener. The Grizzlies' plus-4.4 rebounding differential ranks second in the NBA, and they're averaging a plus-7.8 during their streak.
Their 13.7 3-pointers attempted per game are the fewest in the NBA, as they prefer to go inside to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph and Gasol picked up their 33rd and 11th double-doubles of the season, respectively, in an 88-82 win over Orlando on Friday.
They combined for 27 rebounds as the Grizzlies claimed a 52-42 advantage on the boards. Randolph, whose double-double total ranks second in the NBA, is also the league's second-leading rebounder with 11.7 per game.
It was a nice bounce-back game for Gasol, who was 8 of 11 for 19 points and 13 rebounds after going 4 for 19 in his previous two games. He still wasn't necessarily pleased with the Grizzlies' performance, however, as they let the short-handed Magic hang around due in part to 17-for-29 free-throw shooting.
"We have to play better basketball," Gasol said. "We have to play more consistent, more disciplined on both ends."
Memphis dominated the interior in the teams' first meeting, a 101-77 home win on Jan. 25, outscoring Brooklyn 62-40 in the paint.
The Nets (33-23) weren't able to extend their winning streak to five on Friday, falling to Houston 106-96. Johnson, the team's second-leading scorer at 17.0 per game, missed his first contest of the season due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
C.J. Watson scored 17 on 7-of-15 shooting while starting in Johnson's place.
"It was sore after the Milwaukee game," general manager Billy King said of Johnson's injury, referring to Wednesday's 97-94 win. "It's mildly inflamed so he's on some medication and day-to-day, most likely will play Sunday."
Johnson isn't the only key player who Brooklyn will have to monitor. Deron Williams received cortisone shots in each ankle just prior to the All-Star break, the third time he's received the injections this season.
Williams, averaging 16.8 points and 7.7 assists, is trying to strike a balance between staying healthy while also being on the court enough to help the Nets as they make their playoff push. Brooklyn is one game behind New York for the Atlantic Division lead and third place in the Eastern Conference.
"It's tough cause we're in a position where if we lose a couple games, we slip to sixth or seventh," said Williams, who had 12 points against Memphis last month. "We win a couple, we can move up to second. So I need to be out there as much as possible. I need to continue to do things I need to do in the weight room and training room to stay as healthy and as fresh as possible."