In last season’s playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies participated in the first play-in game but fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in a close contest.
On Monday night, the Grizzlies clinched a return trip to the revised and more advanced play-in tournament, but they don’t want to suffer the same fate.
“It feels good. We worked hard for it. But like we said last year, we want to get over the hump. The job is not done,” Memphis guard Dillon Brooks said after scoring a game-high 23 points in a 115-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We want to seed ourselves well and play hard every single game. But it’s good to know that we clinched.”
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said the team didn’t have a defined goal of making the play-in tournament this season but did have goals that, without directly saying it, would lead them there.
“We learned a lot last year,” Jenkins said. “We had a great chance. A really good first season. We’re having a good second season here. We’re getting tested a lot this time of year trying to find our consistency and trying to find our best basketball of the year.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting all season long especially with the schedule we’re facing right now. We’re just taking it one day at a time. That’s kind of our M.O. That’s what’s driving us. That’s what allowed us to get this victory today and hopefully we play even better tomorrow.”
Memphis plays again on Tuesday against Dallas at home, and has another back-to-back on Thursday and Friday, hosting Sacramento both times.
The Grizzlies finish with a game at Golden State on Sunday that could determine the seeding for the play-in.
Right now, Memphis is in the ninth spot in the play-in scenario, meaning if the season ended today, the Grizzlies would have to play in the nine-10 game and would have to win twice in order to make the playoffs. They are chasing Golden State in the eighth spot.
Memphis is also two games up on San Antonio for the 10th spot, so a home game would be in the works if the Grizzlies don’t get by the Warriors.
Against the Pelicans on Monday, Memphis built up a 14-point lead in the second quarter, but it quickly evaporated as the Pelicans went on a 21-3 run to start the third. Memphis was able to chip away and get the lead back in the fourth quarter while holding on to the victory.
“We’re in every single game. It doesn’t matter what team we play. We’re always in tight games. It’s a good learning experience for us,” Brooks said.
“We find different ways to win. We wouldn’t like it no other way just to learn being in close games because every other game is going to be close. The play-in game is going to be close. But we just have to be accustomed to it and keep our composure and like today, figure out a way to win.”
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