Nuggets, Grizzlies trending in opposite directions
In early December the Memphis Grizzlies were one of the surprise teams in the NBA, sitting six games above .500.
Nearly two months later, Memphis is falling fast and sounding like sellers as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 7.
The Grizzlies (20-30) had lost 21 of 25 games since Dec. 8 before beating the Indiana Pacers 106-103 on Saturday night. The win ended an eight-game losing streak, and the Grizzlies will try to make it two in a row for the first time in a month when they face the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
The Nuggets head to Memphis after beating Philadelphia 126-110 on Saturday and will meet a team with many questions.
The biggest question is this: How much longer will center Marc Gasol and guard Mike Conley still be on the team? The two veterans have been the subject of trade rumors, indicating Memphis is looking to rebuild around its young players.
Gasol and Conley don't shy away from talk about the rumors but insist they don't have any answers about the possibility of being traded.
"You guys can ask me all the questions you want to, and I'll answer them happily," Gasol told reporters on Friday morning ahead of the Grizzlies game against Sacramento - another loss - at FedExForum. "But the guys that you should ask the questions to are upstairs and 1/8those are 3/8 the guys that have more information, that know more, that know what's going on and what's not."
If Conley or Gasol are dealt, it will break up a duo that has been together since the 2008-09 season. With them, the Grizzlies appeared in the playoffs seven consecutive seasons from 2010-11 through 2016-17 and made it as far as the Western Conference finals in 2013.
Memphis is well outside the playoff scenario in the standings, but the Nuggets are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets (33-15) are coming off two impressive offensive showings, scoring at least 70 points in the first half of consecutive games for the first time in 11 seasons. The wins over Phoenix and Philadelphia came despite missing a big part of the team in each game.
Center Nikola Jokic served a one-game suspension Friday night against the Suns, and guard Jamal Murray missed Saturday's contest with a sore ankle. It was just the second game he has missed in his three-year career.
Murray is questionable for Monday's game.
"He'll continue to get treatment round-the-clock, and we'll see about his availability in Memphis," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Saturday
Jokic had a big game against the 76ers. He came out fast in the first period with 17 points and seven rebounds and finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double of the season.
"He was a huge part of our attack and made the right play time and time again," Malone said after Saturday's win. "He's proven why he's an All-NBA type player. Thank goodness he's in a Nuggets uniform."
Denver's season has been one of overcoming missing pieces. Guard Will Barton was out for 38 games, guard Gary Harris has missed 23 games and Paul Millsap was out eight games with a fractured toe. The Nuggets have weathered the injuries to sit atop the Northwest standings. They haven't lost consecutive games in a month.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 27, 2019