Keeping up: Ohio State Buckeyes in the NBA, week of 3/25-3/31

The struggles for Turner and the Pacers lately are coming at the wrong time with Miami surging - Rob Carr

While in college basketball the Final Four was just finalized, the NBA is still a couple months away from setting their own final four, but with only a couple weeks left in the regular season the playoff picture is coming into shape.

Many have already penciled in Miami and Indiana to take up the Eastern Conference spots in the NBA's own version of the Final Four, but Indiana has been showing plenty of holes in their game lately. Over the past 10 games the Pacers are only 4-6, and Evan Turner is really struggling with his new team. Meanwhile the combination of Conley and Koufos has Memphis in the thick of things for the final two playoff spots out west, and the race for seventh and eighth looks like it won't be settled until the last couple days of the season. While there is plenty to keep track of in terms of playoff positioning for a good number of the Buckeyes in the NBA, the injury bug did hit a couple former Buckeyes last week, but in the case of Byron Mullens it probably isn't all that bad that he wasn't able to suit up for a team that had lost 26 straight games before he was forced to miss a couple games.

Mike Conley - PG - Memphis Grizzlies

While most of the Buckeyes in the NBA have been either injured or ineffective lately, the main constant has been the play of Mike Conley. Last week was more of the same for Conley, as he helped the Grizzlies keep pace in the hunt for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference that are being contested for amongst three teams. The Grizzlies spent the week out west, splitting the four games that they played. The week for Memphis started with a come from behind victory at Utah on Wednesday night that was broadcast on ESPN. Memphis pulled out a 91-87 victory in which Conley scored 19 points and accounted for six assists.

Memphis wasn't able to win their next game when they traveled to Golden State on Friday, dropping a 100-93 decision that saw Conley score 20 points, which was his high total for the week. The losing continued on Sunday night for Memphis at Portland, but Conley did dish out nine assists, which was the highest total he has put up since February 28th against Oklahoma City. Along with his assist total Conley added 16 points and three steals in the losing effort.

The final game of the week for Memphis saw the Grizzlies end their two-game slide the next night against Denver, winning 94-92 against the Nuggets. Conley went 9-15 from the field and finished with 19 points in a game that Memphis desperately needed to help them keep pace with Phoenix and Dallas. The win over Denver gives Memphis possession of the 8th spot in the Western Conference for the time being, with the Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies all sporting matching 44-30 records. The race for the final spots in the Western Conference should come down to the wire, with Memphis squaring off with both Phoenix and Dallas in the last week of the regular season.

Kosta Koufos - F/C - Memphis Grizzlies

Kosta Koufos saw the beginning and ending of the week bring games with nearly 20 minutes on the court in each game for the big man, sandwiching a couple games where he was only on the court for eight minutes. Aside from only scoring two points in eight minutes on Sunday night in the loss at Portland, Koufos gave the Grizzlies six points in each of the other three games.

The best overall game for Koufos came in the win on Monday night over Denver, in which he added six rebounds in 19 minutes to the six points that he scored. Koufos could have had more in the contest though, going only 2-7 from the field. The rebounding total was more of a return to normal for Koufos, after he topped out at two rebounds in the previous three games Memphis played during the week. While his rebounding may have been suffering lately, Koufos has been able to try and make up for it with some shot-blocking, swatting a shot in three of the four games that Memphis played. Memphis will need more performances off the bench from Koufos like Monday night's to supplement what Marc Gasol has been giving them. Since returning from his injury a couple months ago that returned Koufos to the bench, the Grizzlies have gone 27-11 with Gasol back in the lineup.

Evan Turner - G/F - Indiana Pacers

More than a month after being traded from Philadelphia to Indiana, Evan Turner is still struggling in adjusting to his role with the Pacers. Last week Turner's minutes on the court steadily declined, going from 21 minutes in the 84-83 win over Miami, to just seven minutes in a 103-77 loss to the red-hot San Antonio Spurs.

Right now Indiana can't count on getting any offensive production from Turned, who failed to score on Friday in the loss to Washington, as well as in the loss to San Antonio. At least in Indiana's lone win of the week, against Miami, Turner wasn't shy about shooting, taking 10 shots in 21 minutes to finish with a week-high eight points. The next three games, all losses, Turner took a combined 11 shots.

Usually when Turner is struggling from the field he can contribute in other aspects of the game, but even that isn't happening right now. In the four games Indiana played last week, Turner only grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists. The Pacers are going to need to get more from Turner off the bench if they are going to hold off Miami, who they are now tied with for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Jared Sullinger - F/C - Boston Celtics

After seeing his production drop off over the last month, Jared Sullinger had a couple performances that reminded fans of what he had been doing earlier in the season. The week kicked off with Sullinger drilling four three-pointers on his way to 26 points and eight rebounds in the 99-90 loss against Toronto on Wednesday. The 26 points were the first time Sullinger had broken the 20-point mark since February 7th against Sacramento, when he scored 31 points. The Raptors and Celtics squared off again just a couple days later in Toronto, and while Sullinger didn't get near the 26 points he had in the last meeting, he nearly was able to notch a double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds in the 105-103 loss.

Sunday saw Boston drop another close matchup, this time falling to Chicago 107-102, but Sullinger was able to get the double-double that had been eluding him lately. The second-year pro finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, which gave Sullinger his first double-double since February 21st against the Lakers. The Celtics finished up the week the next night, this time traveling to Chicago where they fell 94-80 to the Bulls. After what was mostly a strong week for Sullinger finished on an ugly note, shooting only 1-6 to finish with two points in 20 minutes on the floor in the loss.

Byron Mullens - F/C - Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia was riding a 26-game losing streak entering Saturday night's game against Detroit and must have decided they had enough of the tanking, destroying the Pistons 123-98. What was missing from the win for Philadelphia was Byron Mullens, who missed the game with a sprained ankle that he suffered against Houston on Wednesday night. Mullens also missed the most recent game the 76ers game on Monday, which saw Philadelphia return to their losing ways against the Hawks.

Mullens only played three minutes against Houston in the 120-98 loss on Wednesday night before suffering the ankle sprain. Since he didn't play on Saturday, Mullens still hasn't played in a game the Philadelphia has won since being acquired at the trade deadline. Ankle issues are nothing new to Mullens after he missed a portion of last year's campaign with Charlotte when he also sprained an ankle in the first half of the season.

Greg Oden - C - Miami Heat

While the week for the Heat saw them erase Indiana's hold on the top spot in the Eastern Conference, most of their work was done with the services of Greg Oden. Aside from seeing six minutes of playing time on Wednesday night in the 84-83 loss to the Pacers, Oden missed the next three games, all wins for Miami, with back spasms. In the short time he played against Indiana, Oden scored two points and blocked two shots in what was a physical potential preview of the Eastern Conference Finals.

While winning home-court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs would be an advantage for Miami, they won't rush Oden back onto the court. The Heat were already being cautious with their use of Oden after the center's return to the court after four years, and now with his back issues the delicate treatment should continue. Miami will be hoping that Oden will be able to recover and be a contributor once the playoffs hit.

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