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Rockets vs Grizzlies Preview: Memphis looks to keep Houston grounded

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The Grizzlies head to Houston to face a good Rockets team that has recently suffered a few setbacks. Can the Grizzlies repeat their dominating performance of November 17th?

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
2014/15 NBA Season
at
2014/15:
15-2 (7-2 road)
2014/15:
13-4 (6-3 home)
December 3, 2014
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth / 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Jason Terry
Courtney Lee SG James Harden
Tony Allen SF Trevor Ariza
Zach Randolph PF Donatas Motiejunas
Marc Gasol C Tarik Black
2014/15 Advanced Stats
94.4 (22nd) Pace 96.1 (11th)
106.3 (8th) OEff 101.8 (21st)
97.8 (4th) DEff 96.2 (2nd)
50.7 (T-11th) RebR 50.8 (T-8th)

Grizzlies vs Rockets coverage

Opponent's Blog: The Dream Shake

Injuries

Rockets: Patrick Beverley (Out, knee), Isaiah Canaan (Out, ankle), Terrence Jones (Out, knee), Dwight Howard (Doubtful, knee)

Grizzlies: (none)

Previous Matchup

Memphis disassembled the Houston Rockets on November 17th and left the broken pieces all over the FedEx Forum floor.  The final score was 119-93, and even getting the deficit back to 26 in garbage time was an accomplishment after how resoundingly the starters had been defeated.  Two key factors in that game were a very frustrated James Harden going 1-8 for 6 points in 34 minutes, and an attacking Grizzlies defense forcing Dwight Howard to make quick decisions and subsequently commit turnovers.

Points of Grizzly Emphasis

Frustrate The Beard

Frustrating James Harden was a key to winning the November 17th matchup, but it wasn't just true for that particular game.  While Dwight Howard gets at least as many headlines, James Harden's play is the biggest indicator of wins and losses for the Rockets.  Let's look at his splits this young season:

GP MIN FGM-FGA FG% 3PM-3PA 3P% FTM-FTA FT% OR DR REB AST BLK STL PF TO PTS
Wins 13 37.1 7.7-18.8 41.0% 2.8-7.2 38.7% 9.6-10.6 90.6% 1.3 5.3 6.6 6.9 1.2 2.0 2.7 3.9 27.8
Losses 4 38.3 5.3-13.8 38.2% 0.8-5.5 13.6% 5.8-6.8 85.2% 0.3 4.8 5.0 6.0 1.0 1.8 2.8 4.8 17.0

While that is telling, since it's based on a small sample size, let's look at his splits in 2013-14:

GP MIN FGM-FGA FG% 3PM-3PA 3P% FTM-FTA FT% OR DR REB AST BLK STL PF TO PTS
Wins 48 37.9 8.1-16.6 48.8% 2.7-6.5 41.0% 8.0-9.2 86.8% 0.8 3.9 4.7 6.5 0.5 1.8 2.4 3.8 26.9
Losses 25 38.4 6.4-16.2 39.2% 2.0-6.8 28.7% 7.8-9.0 86.2% 0.9 3.8 4.7 5.4 0.3 1.2 2.5 3.4 22.4

So, generally speaking, if James Harden is inefficient, the team struggles.  When he's efficient, they generally win.  The Grizzlies will be looking again to Tony Allen, Quincy Pondexter, and Courtney Lee to keep Harden in check.

Win the possession game

On the whole, Memphis and Houston are two consistently good rebounding teams.  If Dwight Howard is out or limited, however, that should swing the battle of the boards in the Grizzlies' favor.  Also, while Memphis is 6th-best in the league in preventing turnovers, Houston is the 2nd-worst team at turning the ball over, averaging just under 16 per game.   That was starkly obvious in their first matchup, as Memphis forced 21 turnovers to just 10 of their own.  With 2 of the Rockets' rotation ballhandlers (Canaan and Beverley) likely out, this should be an area the Grizzlies can capitalize on again.

Why you should watch this game

The Grizzlies continue to play perhaps the best basketball in the history of the franchise.  This fast start is coming behind the most well-rounded team effort in team history, with a potent offense to match the defense and rebounding that have been staples for years.  Despite the Kings game being characterized as a classic "in the mud" game, the Grizzlies remain the most well-rounded and watchable they've ever been.  Tune in!