WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Kyle Anderson (Out, ankle)
HOUSTON: Chris Paul (Out, hamstring), Eric Gordon (Out, knee)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Omri Casspi (?), Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
HOUSTON: James Harden, Austin Rivers, Danuel House Jr., P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela
The Houston Rockets are a weird basketball team.
On one hand, they have the reigning MVP James Harden, a basketball savant whose game is either extremely frustrating or remarkable brilliant depending on who you ask. Truthfully, it is a little bit of both - there is no denying he is officiated differently than most players in the NBA, but he has earned that to an extent with the way he attacks scoring in so many ways. He understands angles, and lines of sight, better than any player...maybe ever. It slows down the game, and it can drive you nuts to watch, but in an era where efficient scoring is prioritized Harden has perfected the art of getting to the charity stripe.
On the other hand, despite the special season Harden is putting together as a scorer the Rockets have some weird, weird losses. Houston will be on the second night of a back to back in this game against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the Rockets falling in Orlando to the Magic 116-109. Harden was a bad 11-32 in the contest shooting, depending on the likes of Austin Rivers to be a partner in crime.
The real truth is that the Rockets, with Eric Gordon and Chris Paul out especially, are a mediocre-to-average basketball team with an MVP and an All-Star contender (Clint Capela is a monster) that keep them above .500. The Grizzlies are back to reeling after their disappointing loss in Miami to the Heat, but this game could be had if Memphis is on their game.
Here’s how to get it done.
Use the unknown
With Kyle Anderson out for at least the next two weeks, Dillon Brooks done for the season, and Chandler Parsons...well, yeah..., the Grizzlies are in a bit of a jam on the wing. What was once a position of relative strength is now thin as a cracker, and Memphis probably is still figuring out what will be the best way to press on without Anderson, who has sneakily been one of the best players on the Grizzlies.
They need to use that to their advantage.
Omri Casspi is listed as a starter above, but in reality it could be Justin Holiday or even Shelvin Mack that fills the void in the starting lineup left by Slow-Mo. Casspi would allow for Gasol, Conley, Jackson, and Temple to start games as they normally do, since Omri’s game is pretty malleable and he is able to facilitate - just not as well as Anderson. Holiday is a good shooter (in theory) and fit on the wing alongside Temple as well. This could be the chance for Justin to start feeling comfortable with Memphis.
While the Grizzlies are unsure, Houston has no idea what to expect. The unpredictable should be an ally tonight. The thinness of the wing position allows for experimentation and change - catch the Rockets off guard and get some cheap points through silly mismatches.
Eat, JaMychal, Eat
JaMychal Green is having a pretty darn good season, but he is playing his best basketball in the month of January. He is posting a net rating of +7 while converting on a starting 57.1% of his shots, alongside a staggering true shooting percentage of 66.9%. JaM is 2nd on the team to Jaren Jackson Jr. (hilariously) in that stat and his offensive efficiency, plus his defensive versatility and rebounding prowess, help the Grizzlies front court and reserve unit night in and night out.
Meanwhile, Houston played Gary Clark and Marquese Chriss as their reserve bigs against the Magic. No offense to either of those players, but they’re not going to slow down JaMychal Green. Perhaps Nene Hilario, who did not play against the Magic and is a solid reserve big man at this stage of his career, can do work for the Rockets in that match-up.
It appears, though, that one of the few advantages Memphis may have on Houston is in that reserve big role.
The Rockets go as James Harden goes. The Beard shot 1-17 from beyond the arc against the Magic on Sunday. He probably won’t be that awful from three again. Expect a bounce back for The Beard, and another loss for the Grizzlies, despite this being the second game of a back to back for Houston. Memphis is 10-16 on one day’s rest. The Rockets are 3-3 with 0 days rest, and are 15-6 at home.
16-6 after tonight, sadly.
Houston 109, Memphis 98
Stats provided by Basketball-reference.com