NBA

Grizzlies look to get well versus Nuggets

Memphis was quiet at the trading deadline but a few teams were busy, including one -- Oklahoma City -- that is a half-game behind the Grizzlies in the Western Conference standings.

It will make for an interesting last 23 games for Memphis. The Grizzlies weren't expected to be a playoff team this year but are sitting sixth in the competitive Western Conference. They are fighting for positioning at this point while the Denver Nuggets are battling to hold onto the last slot.

That is the drama that surrounds the teams when they play in Denver on Sunday afternoon.

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Memphis (34-25) is on a two-game skid after Friday's loss at Indiana, but might find some relief against the Nuggets. The Grizzlies won both meetings this year and three in a row dating back to last season.

The last matchup, Feb. 1 in Denver, was supposed to be payback for the Nuggets after their one-point loss in Memphis in November but instead the Grizzlies dominated from the start in a 119-99 victory.

Denver (26-32) beefed up its frontcourt since that loss. The Nuggets traded for 6-foot-11 Mason Plumlee on Feb. 12 and acquired 7-2 Roy Hibbert from Milwaukee on Thursday.

Plumlee played three games for Denver while Hibbert could make his debut Sunday after getting held up while traveling to Colorado on Friday.

The questionable status of Kenneth Faried, who left Friday's victory over Brooklyn with back spasms, might provide Hibbert with an opportunity to play.

Plumlee showed his value in a short period of time. He averaged 11 points and eight rebounds in the three games and came within two assists of a triple-double against the Nets. He provided a much-needed inside presence with a fatigued Nikola Jokic having an off night.

"My confidence is just growing," he said after the game. "I think as you continue to grow, you get better. I think we just improved. I'm just feeling guys on the floor and what guys like to do and tendencies. For your own teammates it's very important so it will get better."

The Grizzlies are trying to get better overall after Friday's disappointing loss to the Pacers. Memphis trailed by as many as 29 against Indiana before making it a respectable 102-92 finish. It was the third loss in four games.

"Just when you think your team is looking good, feeling good, you can't ever get comfortable because stuff like this happens," Memphis coach David Fizdale told The Commercial-Appeal after Friday's game. "But we've shown a tendency all year to come back from tough losses and regroup."

Brandon Wright missed the game in Indiana for personal reasons and his status for Sunday is unknown.

Denver had a pair of disappointing losses that bookended the All-Star break. It dropped a home game to Minnesota on Feb. 15 and another in Sacramento on Thursday.

The Nuggets know if they are going to hold off New Orleans, Portland and the Kings for that last playoff spot, they need to be more consistent. Friday, they got back to that despite an off night from Jokic.

"A lot of guys stepped up," coach Michael Malone said. "It was a good bounce-back win after a disappointing performance in Sacramento."