The surging Memphis Grizzlies open a four-game western swing atop the Southwest Division.
Coach Lionel Hollins would be far more satisfied if they are still playing this well toward the end of the season.
The Grizzlies look to extend their longest winning streak in nearly six years to seven Monday night when they try to snap a three-game slide in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.
Since losing three in a row earlier this month, Memphis (9-6) has won six straight to move percentage points ahead of San Antonio and Dallas for the division lead.
“From my perspective, I’m not even thinking of that,” Hollins said Saturday following the franchise’s second-most lopsided victory, a 128-95 win over Sacramento. “I just think about how we can make the playoffs and how we can get better than we were last year.”
The Grizzlies, who lost in seven games to Oklahoma City in last season’s Western Conference semifinals, have been outstanding on the defensive end during their best surge since a 7-0 run March 14-26, 2006. They’re holding teams to an average of 88.5 points during their current streak.
Memphis, though, has allowed 115.0 per game while losing seven of nine in Oakland.
Despite shooting 51.2 percent in their lone visit last season Nov. 3, 2010, the Grizzlies lost 115-109 as Monta Ellis scored 17 of his 39 points in the final seven minutes.
While Golden State coach Mark Jackson would be happy with another big game from Ellis on Monday, he wants to see better ballhandling from his team. The Warriors (5-10), who’ve lost nine of 12, committed seven of their 18 turnovers in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 94-91 home loss to Indiana.
Ellis had the ball stolen from him in the final seconds by George Hill, who converted a three-point play on the other end for the final margin. The NBA later issued a statement saying Hill intentionally kicked the ball and the Warriors should have regained possession.
“Clearly (Hill) kicked the ball,” Jackson said, “but at the end of the day you don’t blame the refs, you blame our team. We should have taken better care of the ball.”
That could be a challenge for the backcourt duo of Ellis and Stephen Curry, who scored 12 points Friday after missing the previous eight games with a sprained right ankle.
The Grizzlies lead the league with 10.4 steals per game, with point guard Mike Conley averaging 2.5.
Conley is scoring 16.7 points per game with 8.2 assists since the team’s last defeat. He had a season-high 22 points with six assists Saturday.
O.J. Mayo is 16 of 27 from 3-point range during the win streak, scoring 13.2 per game.
“We’re going to head to the road and carry the momentum onto this four-game, seven-day road trip,” Mayo said. “As long as we’re winning, I’m all smiles.”
Conley and Mayo combined for 32.7 points per game and each hit 5 of 11 from long range as Memphis won two of three against Golden State in 2010-11.
Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay missed the last matchup – a 110-91 Memphis home victory March 30 – due to shoulder surgery, but he totaled 60 points in the previous two against the Warriors, including a season-best 35 in the road loss.
The Grizzlies, who’ve won at New Orleans and Detroit during their streak, last won three straight road games during a franchise-record 7-0 run Feb. 17-March 10, 2010.
Golden State has won once in its last five at home.