When the NBA season was suspended in March, the Grizzlies held a 3.5-game lead over the top challengers for the No. 8 seed, but were entering one of the toughest stretches of their 2019/20 schedule. At 32-33, Memphis had 17 games left. Of those 17 games, 11 were against playoff teams and five were against immediate threats to the Grizzlies’ playoff spot (Portland, New Orleans, and San Antonio).
Now that the league has settled on playing just eight more games this summer, the Grizzlies’ path to a postseason spot is simpler in some ways, but more complicated in others. Any team hoping to pass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed will have to make up four games in an eight-game stretch, which will be a tall order.
Even if the Grizzlies play sub-.500 ball and go 3-5 when play resumes, the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, or Spurs will have to go 7-1 to surpass or match them. The Suns, who are six games back, wouldn’t even be able to catch Memphis if the Grizz win more than two games.
However, the NBA’s new rules for Orlando also ensure that the Grizzlies will be subject to a play-in tournament if at least one team finishes within four games of them. In other words, unless Memphis increases or maintains its lead over all five teams behind them in the Western Conference standings during those eight seeding games, a play-in tournament is happening.
The Grizzlies would still have a leg up in that play-in tournament, which would pit them against the No. 9 team. Memphis would only have to win one game, while the challenger would have to win twice. But the club wouldn’t have much room for error — losing the first game in the play-in tournament would result in a winner-take-all second game.
Assuming the summer schedule is made up primarily of the next games on the team’s initial schedule, as expected, the Grizzlies will still have a challenging path, but it won’t be too grueling. Memphis wouldn’t be a major underdog against Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, or New Orleans (twice). And while the Grizzlies would likely have to face the Bucks and possibly the Celtics, none of the West’s top three teams would be on their upcoming slate.
What do you think? When play resumes this summer, will the Grizzlies hang onto the No. 8 seed, clinching it outright or in a play-in tournament? Or will another team make a run and claim the conference’s final postseason berth?
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