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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets: What to Watch For

The regular season is a week away. As the Grizzlies welcome the Rockets for a preseason national TV game, here are some storylines to look for.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies play their second to last preseason game tonight as they welcome the Houston Rockets to FedExForum. The game tips off at 8:30 PM CT and will be televised on ESPN. For Memphis, Wayne Selden Jr. will likely be out with a quad injury and Ben McLemore remains out as he rehabs following foot surgery. For the Rockets, Chris Paul (shoulder) is considered day to day and Tarik Black (knee/birth of child) will not play.

Memphis is coming off a pretty poor performance against the Atlanta Hawks this past Monday, but the 100-88 loss is no reason to panic. Bad shooting is to be expected at times when so much change is occurring around you, as it is for these Grizzlies. Chemistry takes time to develop, and it will come along. The shots will fall, and preseason games are not where fan frustration should reside.

But how the pieces are utilized, and where the focus is schematically, is what matters in these early contests. With that in mind, here are some things to look for as the Grizzlies play the rival Rockets one week from the season starting for Memphis.

  • The use of Chandler Parsons
Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

He remains the story. More and more it looks like Chandler may well be a bench stretch four for much of the season, and head coach David Fizdale said as much this week when asked by Peter Edmiston of Sports56 WHBQ in Memphis.

As was mentioned in the game recap for Atlanta yesterday, this is a big deal for a variety of reasons - the contract, the impact on the starting lineup, etc. But as you (ok, I) progress through the stages of grief with this new reality, you reach a point where you realize the contract no longer matters, especially if you’re the coach. It is what it is, and stretch provisions and such are not what Fizdale and his staff are responsible for. They are responsible for the on-court product, and if they feel this is what’s best for the team and for Chandler, then they must do it.

It’ll be interesting to see how Chandler responds to this potential new role. He also hasn’t made a three-point shot in three games, so it’d be nice to see one or two go in for him as a confidence booster. Whether it’s as a bench player or starter, this Grizzlies team needs Parsons to produce. His stat line tonight isn’t as important as his continued progress towards being a relevant NBA player again, regardless of role.

  • Who starts at the 2?
Memphis Grizzlies v New York Knicks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Andrew Harrison got the latest opportunity to show what he can do at the “shooting guard” position against Atlanta, and while he wasn’t a major reason the Grizzlies lost, he also didn’t impact the game the way a player in his spot needs to. Harrison is considered on the bubble to make this roster, and with Mario Chalmers and Wade Baldwin IV breathing down his neck, he needs to have a better showing if he draws the start tonight.

If he doesn’t start, who does? Tyreke Evans could slide into that role, and with Parsons potentially being a reserve player this season, Evans may make sense playing on the perimeter alongside Conley and James Ennis III (who is having a solid preseason, by the way), at least until McLemore and Selden are healthy. A starting unit of Conley/Evans/Ennis/Green/Gasol gives Fizdale a lot of interesting possibilities in terms of shooting and facilitation on offense, plus two wing defenders with length in Ennis and Evans.

Then a bench unit of Chalmers/McLemore/Selden/Parsons/Wright feels a bit more formidable. Who plays with whom is almost always more important in these preseason games than whether or not the ball goes in the basket.

  • Bearing Witness to the Houston Three Point Barrage
Memphis Grizzlies v Houston Rockets Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Monday night in New York, the Rockets launched 46 three point shots against the Knicks and converted 22 of them on their way to a 117-95 victory. James Harden scored 36 points and made 7 shots from beyond the arc while dealing out 11 assists and grabbing 9 rebounds. It wasn’t a perfect performance (7 turnovers), but considering how much he was involved in the offense that’s forgivable. Harden is a stud, and it would appear he’s primed for another historic season...and that was without Chris Paul in the lineup.

It wasn’t just Harden draining long range jumpers, though. Three other Rockets starters made at least 3 three pointers - Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza. Once Paul is inserted and comfortable, and Gordon returns to the bench alongside Nene and P.J. Tucker, this Houston offense may be impossible to stop or slow down.

Memphis gets its first look at the Rockets machine tonight. Again, it is just preseason, but Houston looks to be ready for opening night. The Grizzlies need to match the intensity and execution, or they may get run off the court.

Seven days until they start to count. The Grizzlies need to show the ability to convert open/easy shots and close out on shooters. They need to get into a rhythm as best they can with rotations. Winning or losing, at least tonight, doesn’t matter. The main thing to hope for in this game is improvement...

And maybe a few more made threes.

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