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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets Game Preview

The Grizzlies look to wrap up their season series against the Rockets with a win

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Houston Rockets (12-4, 8-1 Away) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7-7, 4-3 Home)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 ESPN Memphis

Injury Report-

Houston- Luc Mbah a Moute (Questionable, illness)

Memphis- Mike Conley (Out, Left Achilles), Wayne Selden (Out, Right Quad)

Projected Starters-

Houston- Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela

Memphis- Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, James Ennis III, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol


It’s crazy to think that only 3 weeks ago, the Grizzlies were riding high after destroying the Rockets at the FedExForum en route to a 5-1 record. Fans were planning a championship parade, the national media was already admitting they were wrong about the Grizzlies, and with a favorable schedule ahead, the Grizzlies were on cloud 9. The Grizzlies have gone 2-6 since that dominant win over the Rockets, with a handful of very disappointing losses.

Over the span of the current losing streak, the Grizzlies have gotten JaMychal Green, Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden back from injuries and Coach Fizdale has been working on incorporating them into the rotation. The Grizzlies typically play up or down to their competition, so perhaps a final matchup against the Rockets will be exactly what they need. Without Mike Conley, here’s what the Grizzlies need to do tonight if they hope to get back on track and get the win.

Defense

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Defense has been the Grizzlies calling card for as long as I can remember. Especially true for this season, the defense will make or break the team. When the Grizzlies get stops it helps them get out in transition to score easy baskets. With Memphis limited on offense with Conley ailing from a pesky ankle/achilles injury, the Grizzlies could use all the easy points they can get.

Defense is going to especially important against a Rockets team that just got Chris Paul back and dropped 142 points on the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. The Grizzlies have been the only team in the NBA to hold the Rockets to under 100 points this season, resulting in two of the four Rockets losses. The Grizzlies don’t have to necessarily hold them under 100 points tonight, but if they can keep the Rockets around that number, they’ll give themselves a chance.

Guard the 3 Point line

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I know I’m doubling down on the defensive focus, but the Grizzlies need to force the Rockets to shoot the ball from inside the arc. In the two Grizzlies wins, the Rockets shot a combined 30% (23/76) from beyond the arc. In the Rockets win, they shot nearly 36% (16/45). Typically missed 3-pointers lead to long rebounds which can result in easy fast-break baskets for the Grizzlies. Since the Grizzlies aren’t a great 3 point shooting team, they won’t be able to match Houston shot for shot beyond the arc but if the Grizzlies can slow them down and force contested 3’s it should result in a good night for the home team.

Crash the Glass

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

As I mentioned earlier, 3 point attempts typically end in long rebounds. For the Grizzlies, this can result in easy fast break points. However, it could also lead to wide open 3’s for the Rockets if the Grizzlies fail to secure the rebound. Having JaMychal back will help the Grizzlies rebound the ball (currently bottom 5 in the league) but he and Marc can only do so much. Wing players like James Ennis and Chandler Parsons will need to help attack the glass and grab rebounds, even if it means giving up a potential fast break opportunity. Limiting easy opportunities for the Rockets and avoiding a high-scoring affair will be critical for the Grizzlies.

The Prediction

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies have been struggling lately but seem to always show up for the big games. The Rockets made the Chris Paul inclusion in the lineup look easy Thursday night against the Suns, but when giving maximum effort the Grizzlies are a much better defensive team than the Suns. If the Grizzlies can keep the game close, it’ll be interesting to see how CP3 and Harden play together with the game on the line.

CP3 has a knack for arguing with his teammates in close games so if the Grizzlies can frustrate the Rockets, they can steal the win. A win would be big for the Grizzlies because it will give them the 3-1 series win against the Rockets which could be important in May when dealing with tie-breakers in the ultra-competitive western conference.

Unfortunately, I just don’t see the Grizzlies defense being able to hold off the Rockets offense. The defense has been a struggle lately and I don’t think the Grizzlies have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Rockets, especially without Mike Conley. Ultimately, I expect the Rockets to build an early lead and hold off a late Grizzlies comeback (a movie we’ve seen too many times) to tie the season-series.

Rockets 115 Grizzlies 105