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Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Game Preview

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
20-20 (9-7 road)
Lost 1
29-15 (18-6 home)
Won 3
January 24th, 2014
Toyota Center in Houston, TX
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Pat Beverley
Courtney Lee SG James Harden
Tayshaun Prince SF Chandler Parsons
Zach Randolph PF Terrence Jones
Marc Gasol C Dwight Howard
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.4 (30th) Pace 98.3 (7th)
102.5 (18th) OEff 107.8 (4th)
104.1 (17th) DEff 102.2 (T-10th)

The Law of Averages dictates that if you keep swinging long enough, you'll eventually hit something. Now sure, this doesn't apply to BJ Upton, Dan Uggla, Greg Norton, Nate McLouth, Garret Anderson, or a slew of other people who have played for the Atlanta Braves the last few years, but generally speaking, it's a valid statement.

And so tonight, the the Grizzlies will step up to the plate and start swinging one more time in an attempt to finally get a divisional win as they travel to Houston to play James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Rockets. Historically speaking, this isn't the Grizzlies best chance to pick up it's first Southwest Division win on the season. Memphis is 1-14 in their last 15 trips to the Toyota Center and have one of the worst records there compared against any other team in the NBA.

But if the Grizzlies have shown us anything this season, it's that we really have no idea what to expect out of them on a nightly basis. Some nights, they'll look like a power house, and other night's they'll look like the power is out. Some nights, they play stiffling D, while other night's they're just straight trifling, G. Some nights they'll go hard as a mother, and some nights they leave us all saying, "Oh, brother..."

The point is, with these 20-20, up and down, injury-plagued Grizzlies, there really is no status quo, and perhaps Houston, the most unlikely of places, will prove to be the cure to their divisional ails.

Keys to the Game
  • Play ALL 4 quarters. In the previous two meetings, Memphis has held the advantage for 6 of the 8 quarters of play, and they have exactly zero wins to show for it. The Rockets are a high-quality Western Conference opponent, and you simply cannot beat them without playing a full game on both sides of the ball. After two attempts, let's hope the Grizzlies have that lesson learned, because if they only play the first three quarters again, they're going to head home staring 0-11 in the face.
  • Defend withOUT fouling. In the last matchup, James Harden got to the line at will. Part of it was poor officiating, part of it was Harden's gifted offensive ability, and part of it was Memphis simply commiting foolish fouls and making terrible decisions. The Grizzlies can't control all three of those things, but they can control how they defend him. Hands up, stay in front, and be smart. If you are a big helping onto Harden, don't swipe at the ball. He is one of the more gifted floppers in the league, and he can sell contact with the best of them.
  • Showcase for NOLA. Nobody on either of these two teams was selected as an All-Star starter last night, something that isn't much of a surprise for the Grizzlies, but is probably a bit of a shock to a couple of Rockets' players. Dwight Howard was overtaken by Kevin Love during the final days of voting, and James Harden was ousted by Steph Curry and Damien Lillard. As much as athletes say things like this don't bother them and they are in it for team awards and yadda yadda yadda, bull crap bull crap bull crap, politically correct garbage, you can bet both Harden and Howard feel snubbed, and will want to show they deserve to be on the squad, so look for their play to reflect that. Mike Conley, who was also recently left off the Team USA roster, is in definite consideration for a spot as an All-Star reserve. Coming out and dropping 20 points, a good number of assists, and leading Memphis to a win would help to present his case.

I never do predictions at the end of previews, because I find its a good way to look silly, and I like to think I do a good enough job of that on my own, nor am I a betting man, but if you are, I advise to lay the favorite in this one. The Grizzlies are still trying to find their way with Gasol back in the lineup, and combine that with having to play in Houston against a slighted James Harden and Dwight Howard, and that isn't exactly the recipe for success for Memphis.

Here again, there is no status quo for this group of Grizzlies, and having all the odds stacked against them has shown to motivate them in the past. When it comes right down to it though, expecting the Grizzlies to win in Houston is a lot like expecting Richard Sherman not to do a victory lap around your house while yelling, "I'M THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME!" after he beats you in a game of checkers; it's just not going to happen.

Prove us wrong, Memphis. Prove us wrong.