WHERE: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
HOUSTON- Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela
Tonight we conclude the season series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets. This your old story of two completely clashing styles going up against one another. A high-powered offense matched up with a stout defense. The Grizzlies are leading the season series currently at 2-1 with Memphis also winning the last one in Houston.
As for tonight, this is a much taller task because the Grizzlies are playing their second game of a back to back, having lost to Dallas last night 104-100. Their stamina and endurance will definitely be tested for the duration of the game.
This is a big night for the Grizzlies. Not only for seeding but to once again see if they can handle the top teams in the Western Conference. Houston made major upgrades at the trade deadline headlining with Lou Williams. Williams was a major contender for 6th man of the year in Los Angeles, and now he is paired with another 6th man contender in Eric Gordon.
Memphis needs to be able to handle this upgraded teams to have high hopes going into the playoffs. “You gotta beat the best to be the best” and that phrase applies perfectly in this situation. Here are a few things to take note of before tonight’s big game.
Defense First vs. Offense First
This matchup perfectly pits two contrasting styles of basketball. According to NBA.com, the Houston Rockets are second in the league in points scoring 112 a game, second in offensive rating, and fourth in pace. This team is score as much as possible, as fast as possible. It is everything that GM Daryl Morey wants from his team.
“Morey Ball” was created with Morey using advanced analytics in every facet of the game. Shoot threes and layups and nothing else. And it is exactly what their team does. Houston leads the league in three-pointers attempted shooting 40.5 threes a game. That is an unprecedented number. The Cavaliers are second only shooting 33.6. And by adding Lou Williams to the team, this number may even go up.
Contrast this with the Grizzlies. A defense oriented team whose main goal is to slow it down and play their style of basketball. Memphis ranks 27th in points per game and 28th in pace. However, they rank 4th in the league in defensive rating. This is their identity, and they own it.
Stopping The Beard
In the first three games, James Harden averaged 24 points. That is almost five below his season average points per game at 28.8. As one of the two favorites for the MVP award, even clipping his scoring by just a little is a major accomplishment against this guy.
Their whole offense flows through him. It is vital for the Grizzlies to clamp down and try to take away his game even if it is just a little bit. Tony Allen and the Memphis defense are going to have their hands full against this potent offense. Keeping down Harden’s assist numbers is the real test. This will show the need for the team defense coming together and shutting down the other players around him.
Harden will score his 20 points. He is an incredible player and can do that at will. What will turn this game is if the Grizzlies can limit the rest of their team to little or no production.
At the end of the day, I feel like this is a tough game for the Grizzlies. As mentioned earlier, it is the second of a tough Texas back-to-back. Houston will be ready for this game. They are coming off a rout in Los Angeles against the Clippers shooting them out of the game. The Rockets are trying to send a message to the Warriors letting them know the competition.
Unfortunately, I don’t see Memphis winning this very challenging game on the road. Houston addition of Lou Williams has made them a serious contender. Splitting the season series still should be a positive sign for the Grizzlies because it will show to them that no competition is unbeatable.
Spread: Rockets -8 Give me the Grizzlies and those eight points. I feel like the moment of the game will keep this matchup close throughout with the Rockets edging them at the end.
Rockets- 118, Grizzlies- 111