The NBA released the full 2014-15 schedule on Wednesday night, and the Memphis Grizzlies expect to be in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. With the schedule finally released, there are a few games that should be highlighted and noted along with the rest of the schedule.
The Grizzlies open the season on Wednesday, Oct. 29 against the Minnesota Timberwolves in what should be a very winnable game for the Grizzlies. The Timberwolves will be without Kevin Love due to the pending trade that should go through on Aug. 23, when the Cleveland Cavaliers can trade their No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. The Timberwolves will be boasting a very young roster, which should bode well for the veteran-laden Grizzlies as they win their first game of the season.
Looking past opening night, the Grizzlies will have two straight road games against teams that hope to be contenders in the Western Conference in the Phoenix Suns and the Oklahoma City Thunder starting on Nov. 5. Both games should prove to be the Grizzlies’ first real tests during the regular season. Beyond that, the Grizzlies have a very winnable stretch of games up until Dec. 5, when the team will host four straight playoff contenders at home in the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Hornets. Although the games are at home, facing four playoff teams in a row is never an easy thing to do. But with a relatively easy schedule up until that point, the Grizzlies should be rested and ready to go barring any serious injuries. When Dec. 17 rolls around, the Grizzlies will have three more tough games in a row against the Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers. There’s not too much time in between stretches of tough games, so the Grizzlies may struggle there.
After that, the Grizzlies will not have another tough stretch of games until Feb. 11, when four out of their next five games will be against high-powered Western Conference contenders, including the Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers twice.
From Mar. 20 on, the Grizzlies close out the season with a very tough schedule, with most of their matchups leading up to their last game of the regular season on Apr. 15 being against teams that will be looking to make serious noise this season. The Grizzlies will have to face the Mavericks, Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans and Clippers in that span before getting to their last game against the Indiana Pacers.
Overall, the Grizzlies should be able to make it back to the playoffs and contend for a fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference. A worst-case scenario would be a seventh or eighth seed, which is around where the team finished last season. What concerns me the most is that the end of the regular season is going to be very tough for the Grizzlies. They should have arguably one of the most difficult last months in the regular season out of any team in the league, which could allow for a fringe playoff team or two to gain some ground and potentially even knock the Grizzlies out of the playoffs. With that being said, there is a lot of ground for the Grizzlies to gain earlier in the season where their schedule is lighter, and if the team can stay relatively healthy up until their rougher spots in December begin, then the Grizzlies should be perfectly fine going forward. Health with their big stars in Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will be a concern, but the Grizzlies’ tough mentality and veteran experience should carry the team to high places this upcoming season.
Predicted Win/Loss Record: 49-33