When: 7:00 PM CT
Where: Toyota Center, Houston
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Memphis Grizzlies: Brandan Wright (out, ankle)
Houston Rockets: Clint Capela (out, knee), Eric Gordon (probable, foot)
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Montrezl Harrell
Some say that, late in his career, the soccer legend Johan Cruyff only performed well in televised and or big games. He probably wanted to preserve himself from unnecessary contact and potential injuries when playing against small teams.
The Grizzlies have done reasonably well when facing the top teams this season including victories against Clippers, Rockets and Warriors. However they have been even more successful against possible lottery teams.
These performances have resulted in many unexpected wins and losses. Now that we are halfway through the season, the Grizzlies are 10-10 against teams with a winning record and 14-7 against teams below .500. Those seven losses are a couple too many.
Memphis won two of the last three games, all of them televised nationally, against playoff teams. Tonight they will visit the Houston Rockets, the third best team in the league according to the standings.
The lack of consistency is something that has been brought up by the Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, who would like to get more steady efforts from his roster day in and day out.
Out of five games in January, Memphis only managed once to keep its opponent below 100 points. Even if they have played against three of the top 10 teams in points scored, Memphis should still impose its will on defense and make it difficult for opponents to cross the 100-point threshold.
Houston is second in the league in points scored with nearly 115 per game. Most importantly, the Rockets are back to the form shown two seasons ago when they made it to the Western Conference Finals.
Houston is shooting around 40 threes a night. Contesting or making those shots uncomfortable will be a key to the game. It will certainly be a test to the Memphis' defensive rotations. If the Rockets catch on fire from beyond the arc, they will be very tough to beat.
They built their team with a purpose to get up as many threes as possible with really good shooters,” Fizdale said. “It challenges us as coaches to evolve. It’s an adapt-or-die league. You just have to keep adapting or you get left behind. It’s pretty cool to watch unless you’re playing against them.
Containing James Harden seems to be an extremely hard task this season where he has recorded 11 triple-doubles. He is a clear MVP candidate and averages 28.6 points, 11.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds.
The last time these two teams met, Tony Allen did an exceptional defensive job on Harden, limiting him to 16 points. Harden still had 17 assists but Memphis escaped with the win.
Parsons, getting in shape
Chandler Parsons is feeling more comfortable on the floor. Still in a minutes restriction, he has averaged 11 points over the last three contests in nearly 17 minutes a game hitting 14 of his 23 tries from the field. He had a season-high 14 points against OKC, was aggressive, looked for his shot and attacked the rim often.
Parsons is undoubtedly a very good basketball player. If he is able to get back in shape, he will be an extremely powerful weapon for the Grizzlies heading into the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Which bench is better?
Memphis and Houston are top 10 in points scored by players off the bench. The Grizzlies' bench was actually outstanding in the last game against the Rockets with a great run at the start of the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies' reserves outscored the Rockets' reserves 55-27.
The contribution by rotation players will surely be one of the keys of the game. Zach Randolph and Eric Gordon are both having a great season off the bench and will be on the run for the Sixth Man of the Year award. The Grizzlies rookie Deyonta Davis has, by the way, recovered from his plantar fasciitis and will be available to play.
Beverley vs Conley, part II
Mike Conley and Patrick Beverley will see each other again after their altercation during the last meeting. Conley had been recently cleared to play after breaking his back and Beverley grabbed him around the neck while fighting for a loose ball.
That dirty play directly put Beverley in the list of most hated players by the community of Grizzlies fans. Other names on that long but distinguished list include Draymond Green, Steven Adams, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul.