WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
HOUSTON: Isaiah Hartenstein (Out, Achilles)
MEMPHIS: Avery Bradley (Questionable, knee/wrist), Kyle Anderson (Out, shoulder), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, thigh), C.J. Miles (Out, foot)
HOUSTON: Chris Paul, James Harden, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley, Justin Holiday, Bruno Caboclo, Jonas Valanciunas
After a winning 3 games in a row against playoff contenders, the Grizzlies have turned around and have played back to back duds against lesser competition en route to losing two in a row. Now the red hot Houston Rockets are in Memphis to try and go for the season-series sweep over the Grizzlies. The Rockets are clearly the much better team, but winning 4 games in a season against the same team isn’t an easy task.
Here’s what the Grizzlies need to do to avoid the sweep.
Guard the 3-point line
Unsurprisingly, the Rockets lead the NBA in 3-point attempts per game by a wide margin, shooting nearly 45 3’s per game. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, shoot just 28 attempts from beyond the arc and only make 33.8% of those attempts. The Grizzlies don’t have any hope of out-shooting the Rockets from deep, but if they can limit the Rocket’s easy looks from beyond the arc it could lead to Houston forcing a ton of bad shots. The Rockets are going to shoot a ton of 3’s regardless, so the Grizzlies will need to be prepared to have a hand in the face of every Rocket’s attempt from beyond the arc.
Houston has proven they can still get hot despite an opposing team playing great perimeter defense, but you’re at least less likely to be mad if the Grizzlies make a solid effort of closing out on shots from beyond the arc.
Let the Jo Bros Bully the Block
The Houston Rockets typically play small ball most of the game since Clint Capela is their lone center under the age of 50 (sorry Nene). Outside of those 2, the Rockets have put both Kenneth Faried and P.J. Tucker as small-ball 5’s in certain lineups. With the Rockets thin down low, they’ll need to attack relentlessly with Jonas Valanciunas and Joakim Noah. Ideally, the Jo Bros get Clint Capela in foul trouble forcing Mike D’Antoni to play Nene more minutes than usual or go small with Faried or Tucker more than he’d like against a big Grizzlies squad. J.B. Bickerstaff would be wise to not play both Noah and Valanciunas at the same time as it would be a nightmare defensively against the Rockets.
However, if both big men can wear out the Rockets down low, it could go a long way in giving the Grizzlies a chance at a win.
Don’t foul James
Via stats.nba.com, James Harden has averaged 19.3 free throws per game against the Grizzlies this season, including a 27 attempt night on New Years Eve. It’s been a debate for most of Harden’s career about how he draws so many fouls, but regardless of your personal opinion the Beard will likely spend a lot of time tonight at the line. The Grizzlies will need to do their best to not put themselves in position to get called for so many fouls tonight. It’s a mute point at this stage in Harden’s career, but it’s hard to not have a preview and not mention the free throw line.
The Houston Rockets are just a much better team than the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have been fun and exciting for the greater portion of the past month, but I just don’t think they stand a chance against the Rockets, even with Houston on the second night of a back-to-back. The Grizzlies just gave up 132 points to the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks in consecutive games. I’m terrified to see what the Rockets will do if the Grizzlies play with the same lethargic energy on defense again tonight.
Rockets 125 Grizzlies 99