Jackson sustained the sprain after suffering a nasty fall late in the second quarter in Memphis’ 117-102 loss to the Lakers this past Friday. His loss is not insignificant for the ascendant Grizzlies, current holders of the Western Conference’s coveted No. 8 seed. Jackson ranks third on the team in minutes played per game (28), second in points per game (16.9), and fourth in average boards (4.7).
Jackson and rookie Ja Morant are the two core building block factors in a Grizzlies youth movement that has brought the team back to relevance. The Grizzlies are currently 28-28 after losing two straight contests following the extended All-Star break. That record puts them 3.5 games ahead of the 25-32 Trail Blazers (the No. 9 seed) and the 24-31 Spurs (the No. 10 seed). The Pelicans, Kings and Suns are all within 1.5 games of the Spurs’ record.
If the Grizzlies go on a sustained swoon in the standings with rookie Brandon Clarke absorbing most of Jackson’s minutes as the new starting four, one of these other playoff contenders may pounce. Memphis already had an external impediment to securing a postseason berth this year: the most competitive remaining schedule in the NBA, ranked by opponent record.