WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (19-12, 11-7 Home) vs. Houston Rockets (22-8, 12-5 Away)
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS - Marc Gasol (Probable, Knee), Deyonta Davis (Out, Foot), Brandan Wright (Out, Ankle)
HOUSTON- Clint Capela (Out, Leg)
MEMPHIS - Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
HOUSTON- Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Montrezl Harrell
This is a terrific match-up between two of the better teams in the Western Conference, and two of the top 10 teams in the NBA.
James Harden and coach Mike D’Antoni have silenced many off-season doubters en route to a flaming hot start to this season. Harden has become one of the lead dogs in the MVP race, posting an insane line of 27.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game. This high-octane offense has taken the NBA by storm and has gotten great contributions from other pieces, such as Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
For Memphis, they are also a surprising team to many thus far. Predictions for this team in the off-season spanned anywhere from the 4-seed to a lottery team, but many thought that they would struggle due to health and lack of depth. While health has proved troublesome, the team, lead by new coach David Fizdale, has persevered.
Now 30-ish games deep into the season, these two will meet to prove themselves to be potential contenders to the Warriors and Spurs in the West.
Key to Victory for Memphis
The Grizzlies must control the pace of this game.
The old narrative of the Grizz is that they played too slow, and Fizdale has been seeking to speed up their pace. But if they try to run with Houston, things will go badly for them.
Houston has the second-leading offense, in terms of points per game with 113, in the NBA. Harden has one of the most complete offensive skill sets that we have seen in the league. Ever.
But the Rockets cannot defend well.
And with an injury to Clint Capela, Marc Gasol should be able to feast on whatever match-up he will have. He will be the key to the Memphis offense, along with Zach Randolph, of going back to the old days and slowing things down.
The old mantra of Grit-N-Grind could rear its head in this game, as they will need it to handicap the biggest strength of Houston, and exploit their biggest weakness.
This game could go a variety of ways.
Houston could run Memphis out of the gym. The Grizz could kill them on the inside with their post play. Or a mixture of both could make a great game.
I see this as being a back and forth battle with many lead changes and both stars, Harden and Gasol, having monster games.
This will be a very fun match-up but at the end of the day, I don’t see the Grizzlies keeping up with the Rockets in the end. I think Harden will keep that Houston offensive train chugging, as they have won 11 of their last 12 games.
I see them making it 12 of 13.