Grizzlies, Rockets aim to improve playoff status

A pair of Southwest Division foes still jockeying for playoff positions get together Friday night, when the Memphis Grizzlies pay a visit to the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center.

Memphis sits just a game behind Denver for the third spot in the West, while the Rockets are seventh in the standings -- one-half game behind Golden State.

The Grizzlies have won six of their last seven games and recorded a 94-75 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats the last time out on Tuesday. Mike Conley led the way with 20 points and seven assists and Zach Randolph added a double- double with 11 points and 13 rebounds to help Memphis extend its home winning streak to 13 games.

"I'm very comfortable being one of the guys with the ball at the end of the game," said Conley, who's averaging 20.6 points and 5.8 assists in his last 13 games. "I have confidence that I'll make the right pass, make the right play or shoot the right shot."

Conley has scored 20 or more points in five straight games, a career-high.

Memphis put the game away by outscoring the Bobcats, 31-18, in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies, who are 20-7 since the All-Star break, hope to have forward Darrell Arthur (back) and guard Jerryd Bayless (knee) against the Rockets. Both players are listed as questionable Friday.

Bayless is averaging 15.8 ppg in his last 12 games played.

The Grizzlies are 22-17 on the road and will finish the season with a winning away record for the first time in franchise history.

Houston will continue its final homestand of the regular season, a three-game residency that began with Tuesday's odd 101-98 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Rockets All-Star James Harden put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer, which Suns forward Jermaine O'Neal was called for goaltending.

"I felt the ball was outside the cylinder, so I just tried to knock it down and tried to swat it out so nobody else would try and tip it in," explained O'Neal. "I've never seen a game finish in a weirder way."

Harden scored 33 points and Francisco Garcia had 15 points for the Rockets, winners in 10 of their last 14 games and three straight at home. Jeremy Lin and Greg Smith scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Houston's win and Utah's loss to Oklahoma City gave the Rockets a playoff berth.

"This is a stepping stone for us," said Harden, who's averaging 25.9 ppg.. "To get in the playoffs, hopefully we can learn from it."

The Rockets will also host Sacramento on the homestand and are 28-11 in Space City this season. They have lost two of the first three encounters with Memphis this season, but own an 11-5 mark in the last 16 meetings between the Southwest foes.

Memphis has lost 13 straight, 16 of 18 and 18 of its last 21 at Houston.