Tonight, the Grizzlies return home with their tails tucked between their legs after, frankly, an embarrassing road trip. The Grizzlies will be facing the Houston Rockets for the third time this season, and they will enter the contest 1-1 on the season against the spaceships from Texas. As with most teams the Grizzlies have played recently, it is the first time the teams will play without the Grizzlies having Rudy Gay. The Rockets are not without changes of their own since the two teams last meeting. The Rockets pulled off one of the biggest shocks at the trade deadline by acquiring highly touted rookie Thomas Robinson, and young buck Donatas Motiejunas has started seeing significant minutes.
Mike Conley was rock solid in the teams first two meetings, posting 14 points and 4 assist in the first meeting and 16 points and 6 assists in the second while protecting the ball very well. As for Houston, James Harden destroyed the Grizzlies in those two games, especially in the second, putting up 31 points and 8 assists. The last time these two teams met, the Grizzlies gave up a season worst 121 points. That does not bode well with the Grizzlies seeing as they have played abysmal defense in their last three games.
It is time for the Grizzlies to stop playing around and handle business, and there is no better place to do it than in the Grindhouse. The Grizzlies have won their last 10 at the FedEx Forum. (Forewarning: shameless plug next) Additionally, I will be in attendance at tonight's game, and the Grizzlies have not lost a game I have attended in five years. Now, I am only able to attend about five games a year seeing as I go to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but a record of 25-0 is rather impressive if I do say so myself.
Scouting The Rockets
- The Rockets essentially have no playbook. Their game is run, run, and run some more. The Rockets are averaging 106.14 points per game this season, which is good enough for second in the league. The Grizzlies are not accustomed to high scoring games, so it will be interesting to see which style wins out.
- The bread and butter of the Rockets in the half court is the pick and roll. The Rockets lead the league in points scored by the pick and roll ball handler, which is no surprise considering James Harden, often the ball handler in pick and roll situations, is one of the best in the league at breaking down the defense and making the read in P&R situations.
- There is one thing Houston loves more than the pick and roll, and that is transition offense. They are an exceptional team in transition, averaging 1.15 points per transition shot. One thing that the Rockets love to do in transition is have Harden sprint ahead with the ball but pull up either at the three point line or right after he crosses midcourt. From there, Omer Asik comes up the court and sets a drag screen for Harden to come over to either launch a three or gain space to drive to the basket. The Grizzlies should see this early and often tonight.
- While the Grizzlies are not accustomed to Conley not being the primary ball handler when he is on the court, they should consider partnering him with Bayless and having Bayless run the point for a while. Now, this might sound crazy but Jeremy Lin is a ball watcher on defense, and if he is guarding Mike Conley, then the Grizzlies could really capitalize by utilizing Conley on back door cuts for several easy baskets. If the idea still seems shaky, consider Conley is an excellent finisher at the rim, shooting 48.13% from that area on the floor this season.
- On defense, the Rockets have been shaky this year. The team plays significantly better defense with Asik on the floor than without him, however, their defense is still average when he is in the game. The Rockets are extremely aggressive on defense, and for no reason really. Often, their lunges for steals just lead to wide open shots for the opposing team. The team's poor positioning can be mostly attributed to youth, but that youth is something the Grizzlies should look to exploit.
- As is common with most teams that look to drive on offense, the Rockets get to the charity stripe a lot. Currently, the Rockets have attempted the fifth most free throws in the league. The Grizzlies do not need either Gasol or Randolph to get in early foul trouble, so that will be something to watch for.
- Neither team has any players sitting out with an injury, at least to my knowledge.
- The most fun matchup of the night should be Tony Allen on James Harden. A win or loss might hinge on Allen and company's defensive performance on Harden.
- This has nothing to do with tonight's game, but one of the most fascinating stories of the NBA season has been the Rockets' Royce White and his battle with anxiety. If you're not familiar, White struggles with severe anxiety, especially when it comes to flying which is obviously essential in the NBA. This has kept him off the court for the most part and away from the team However, White recently joined the Rockets D-League Affiliate after leaving the team. If you have not seen it yet, Grantland did a fantastic short documentary about White's anxiety leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft. Check out the video here.
- The Grizzlies are one game back of the Nuggets for the fourth spot in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies must end their skid tonight and get back on track. They do not want to give the Nuggets home court advantage if the teams were to draw each other in the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets are 32-3 at home. I don't think the Grizzlies want the possibility to see Mile High City four more times this season.