MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Memphis Grizzlies got an important win
for their playoff hopes -- not that they're ready to talk about
Memphis moved within a half-game of the fifth-place Clippers in
the Western Conference, but discussing possible playoff pairings
was off limits.
"It is too early to be talking about the playoffs," Grizzlies
coach Mike Fratello said. "When do you pay attention to the
playoffs? You pay attention when there is an asterisk by your name
that says you have clinched a spot.
"There is no guarantee in this league. Nothing is concrete
until your name is on the paper with an asterisk beside it. You
cannot go to step two before you get to step one."
Memphis (39-29) won its fifth straight, capping a 5-1 homestand.
Elton Brand led the Clippers with 25 points and Sam Cassell
scored 21. Corey Maggette, who scored 25 points in 18 minutes in a
120-108 loss to New Orleans on Tuesday, was held to eight points in
24 minutes. Starting guard Cuttino Mobley sprained his right ankle
in the first half and did not return.
The Grizzlies are attempting to earn a playoff berth for the
third straight season, but understand there's no benefit talking
about seeds and potential first-round opponents. Fourteen
regular-season games remain, including seven on the road.
"Our thing is we're trying to win and just get in a groove
where we can continue it and get into the playoffs," Jones said.
"If you start worrying about seeds then your focus isn't on
Memphis shot 60 percent in the first quarter to take a 26-18
lead and never trailed. The Grizzlies increased their lead to 14
points early in the second quarter and led 43-36 at the half.
The Clippers trimmed the Grizzlies' lead to 51-46 with an 8-0
run midway through the third period, but Memphis answered with a
9-0 run, which included a 3-pointer and a reverse layup by Jones
for a 60-46 advantage.
Miller's 3-pointer a few minutes later increased Memphis' lead
to 65-49 -- the Grizzlies' largest of the game.
The Clippers made one last run midway through the final quarter
to give themselves a chance. A layup and two free throws by Cassell
followed by a pair of jumpers from Shaun Livingston cut the
Grizzlies' lead to 74-71.
But Miller and Jones responded with consecutive 3-pointers for
an 80-71 lead with 1:53 to go. The Grizzlies hit 11 of their final
12 free throws.
"Mike Miller is a big luxury," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy
said. "Having a guy like that come off the bench makes a big
difference. He has improved this year. He's making big shots and
putting up big numbers."
Memphis center Lorenzen Wright, replacing injured Jake
Tsakalidis in the starting lineup, had eight points to spark the
Grizzlies in the opening quarter. Tsakalidis had started 13
straight games, but was sidelined with a sprained left thumb.
Wright was making his first start since Feb. 23. He finished with
Tsakalidis, averaging 10.6 points in his last five games,
is expected to miss at least a week with a sprained left thumb. His
thumb was placed in a cast Thursday. ... The Clippers' next win
will be their 40th, which would be the most by the franchise since
going 41-41 during the 1992-93 season. ... The Grizzlies' point
guards struggled. Starter Chucky Atkins went 1-for-7 and reserve
Bobby Jackson was 1-of-10.
Denzel Valentine could land in Chicago's rotation after Derrick Rose departed for New York.
No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons said hearing the news of the death of his cousin "is a reminder to never forget the important things in life."
DeMar DeRozan, arguably the top shooting guard who could hit the free-agent market, is focused on re-signing with the Raptors, a source said.