Ja Morant and the Grizzlies need a good start after the COVID-19 break to secure a spot in the NBA Playoffs. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/TSD Archives)
Terry Davis

The Memphis Grizzlies finally got their roadmap to the playoffs when the NBA released the matchups for the remaining eight games for all teams that will be played in Orlando.

The Grizzlies will have the early opportunity to put some space between them and the teams that are chasing them.

There are three teams – Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento – that are three-and one-half games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot.

Memphis’ first three games back from the COVID-19 pandemic suspension of the regular NBA seasons will be against Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans.

The Grizzlies’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot without having to have a play-in game is five games.

The schedule sets up favorably for the Grizzlies.

If Memphis is able to win two out of the first three games, the last three games –Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee – may be meaningless to those teams. The seeding may be already set, and those teams may choose to limit the minutes of key players. This may be a benefit for the Grizzlies.

The national media has shown a slight preference to having the New Orleans Pelicans (with the Zion Williamson factor) in the playoffs over the other teams in contention for the final playoff spot in the West.

Memphis has been outperforming the expectations of the league under first year head coach Taylor Jenkins.

The second training camp of the season for all remaining teams will began Tuesday (June 30).  Memphis was in the process of getting healthy when the league shut down the season.

Justice Winslow, who was acquired at the deadline trade, has not played a minute this season with the team, but could be a key piece in the Grizzlies making a return trip to the playoffs.

Star big man Jaren Jackson also was close to returning to the lineup in mid-March and should be ready to go.  Grayson Allen, a consistent role player this season, also may be available for the playoff push.

The odds-on favorite for rookie of the year Ja Morant sent a couple of tweets – “I love it” and “Beat the odds” – immediately following the release of the schedule by the NBA.

Not many people gave the Grizzlies a chance of making the playoffs at the start of the season. Now, they are not just trying to make the playoffs; they want to stay around for a long run.

Riding Morant’s wow-factor, Memphis has become one of the highly energetic teams to watch, but the NBA still did not slate any of their games to start after 6 p.m. central time.

Here is the playoff schedule: