WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Brandan Wright (Out, ankle), Troy Daniels (Questionable, knee)
HOUSTON- Ryan Anderson (Out, illness)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
HOUSTON- Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Montrezl Harrell, Clint Capela
The NBA schedule is brutal.
The Memphis Grizzlies are playing their third game in four nights. The Houston Rockets are playing their fourth game in five nights. The Grizzlies have been from Washington to Memphis in that four day span, while Houston has been in Miami, Houston, and now Memphis. In fact, the Rockets will be playing their tenth game in 15 days tonight, and in their seventh city.
So while it comes for all NBA teams, Houston is currently in the midst of a particularly brutal run.
The tired legs of the Houston Rockets could potentially benefit the Grizzlies. Sure, Memphis had a game last night just like Houston did (the Grizzlies beat the Kings in Memphis, the Rockets lost to the Warriors in Houston), but this back to back for the Grizzlies is of the rare home and home variety. The road weary Rockets had to travel after their defeat at the hands of the Warriors. Add on the fact that Ryan Anderson did not make the trip to Memphis due to illness, and Houston may not have the energy to compete with the Grizzlies.
But as always with Memphis, just because it’s a game the Grizzlies perhaps should win does not mean they will. Slow starts continue to haunt Memphis, and while the Grizzlies were able to overcome a 9-0 deficit to start the game against the Kings, the Rockets are one of the better teams in the NBA even without Anderson thanks to MVP candidate James Harden and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon.
The Rockets are 2-4 in their last 6 games. How can the Grizzlies make it 2-5 and win the season series against Houston?
It is the same old song and dance, but for this Grizzlies team it remains one of the key factors night in and night out to victory, against teams that may be more athletic/talented. The Grizzlies must protect the ball and not commit silly turnovers like they did at times last night against the Kings. Every offensive possession matters for Memphis, and every possession they can create off of turnovers is just as vital as their own that they protect. The Rockets have eight players who average at least roughly one turnover per game, led by James Harden at 5.8 turnovers per contest.
For a high usage player like Harden and a high octane offense like Houston, that makes sense. But Memphis must make the Rockets pay for those mistakes.
CREATE FOR ONE ANOTHER
In 26 Grizzlies wins this season, Memphis has 22 assists per game on average. In 19 losses, the Grizzlies only have 19 assists. That is anywhere between six and nine points per game lost, which more often than not can make all the difference for a team who has only won eight of their victories this season by double digits. Players like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol cannot only look for their own shot- they must make opportunities for their teammates as well as facilitators. Having Chandler Parsons back for tonight’s contest may help with this as well, as he has looked better on the dribble-drive off of pick and rolls better of late and can dish out to open shooters as well.
Creating opportunities at large and for each other must be at the forefront of Head Coach David Fizdale’s attack tonight against the Rockets, especially early in the contest. The Rockets are likely to be tired, and without the perimeter shooting of Ryan Anderson (40.2% from three for the season) they will have one less long range threat to have to worry about defending.
But the Rockets still have James Harden. And Houston still has four players who shoot 34% or better from three and attempt at least four threes per game. They can keep this game close as they launch from beyond the arc, especially if Memphis over-commits to defending the three and Harden (10.3 free throw attempts per game) gets to the charity stripe more than his average.
This is going to be a battle. Memphis must play a consistent 48 minutes to beat even a tired Houston team. But after the success of last night, coupled with the rare ability to rest at home during a back to back, should rule the day as Memphis pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Memphis 107, Houston 100