Grizzlies face stiff test against Lakers

The Memphis Grizzlies have locked up their playoff spot, but they will face a hungry Los Angeles Lakers team Friday night at the Staples Center.

The Lakers are in a battle for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. They lead the Utah Jazz by just one-half game and any type of lead is huge at this point.

"We've still got some work to do," head coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice on Thursday. "We put ourselves in a position that we control what we're doing, so that's great."

The Lakers have won two straight, with a road victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday and a home win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. The wins were great, but came at something of a price.

Steve Nash was injured early in the Sacramento game and missed the matchup with Dallas. Coach D'Antoni sounded skeptical that Nash would play Friday, but didn't rule it out. He's listed as doubtful.

Then, there's Kobe Bryant.

The 35-year-old with a bone spur in his right foot has played all but 79 seconds of the last two games.

"It concerns me, but we're looking at with him and talking about it every day," said D'Antoni. "We've had a couple days off after the games. Friday might be a little different because we play Sunday at 1 o'clock."

One of Friday's critical matchups will be Gasol versus Gasol.

Pau is the Lakers' power forward, while little brother Marc is the starting center for the Grizzlies.

Baby brother's squad is playing great ball. Memphis has won four straight and is only one-half game behind the Denver Nuggets for the third seed in the Western Conference.

The Grizzlies are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the standings, but league rules dictate the three division winners be among the top four seeds, so if Memphis doesn't catch Denver, they will play on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

"It's not a motivation. The players might think about it, but I just want us to play well," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said of securing homecourt. "We had homecourt last year and we lost the series (to the Los Angeles Clippers). You just have to go play, and play well."

On Wednesday, the Grizzlies routed the Portland Trail Blazers to start a three-game western trip. The 94-76 victory gave Memphis a franchise-record 51 wins.

Mike Conley led the way with 20 points. Zach Randolph netted 17 points, while Tony Allen managed 14. Ed Davis came off the bench for 12 points and 10 rebounds in just over 18 minutes. Quincy Pondexter chipped in 10.

The Grizzlies have won both of this season's matchups, although both were in Memphis. The Grizz have taken two of their last three as the visitor in this series.