When: Friday, January 24th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Before we get started, I want to make one thing clear. If I have to sit through a repeat of the last matchup that the Grizzlies endured against the Houston Rockets, I am not going to be a happy camper. If you need a refresher, the last time the Grizzlies squared off against these guys, Mr. James Harden “went off” for 27 points in “historic” fashion, by converting an entire 2 made field goal attempts, while connecting on 22 of the 25 free throws that he was awarded on the night. Heck, I’m still sore about it. But regardless, tonight kicks off an absolutely integral two-game back-to-back set against this team, that could play a serious hand in determining the fortunes of our Grizzlies down the line. Currently they sit at 0-10 in divisional play, and sweeping this set would go a looooong way in turning this ship around… especially after that egg they laid against New Orleans on MLK day.
Expected Starting Lineups
Mike Conley vs Patrick Beverley
The Rockets may not be a top ten defensive team, but it could be tough for Mike Conley to get an effective dribble-penetration game going against them. He’s set to match up against Patrick Beverley, who is as pesky as they come and will be glued to his hip, and has to deal with Dwight Howard lurking in the event that he does make it to the cup. Last time out, Conley struggled enough against Houston, not having to deal with either of them, as Beverley was hurt and Howard played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Still, I’ve never been one to hide my homer tendencies, especially when it comes to number 11, so…
Courtney Lee vs James Harden
Ahh, James Harden, we meet again. Last time out he played the major hand in drawing 5 fouls each from Tony Allen and James Johnson, and 4 fouls from both Mike Miller and Jerryd Bayless. However, the Grizzlies’ new 2-guard, Courtney Lee, split time defending Harden with Avery Bradley earlier in the season and didn’t commit a foul on him. So give it a whirl, Courtney. You know there’s no time like the present for a revenge game against your former team.
Advantage: Houston. Grr.
Tayshaun Prince vs Chandler Parsons
Tayshaun Prince was the only wing player on the Grizzlies that did not incur substantial foul trouble the last time these teams met, as he was returning from a sore knee and didn’t have to spend much time testing his hand at defending Harden. This time he may not be so lucky, with Allen still sidelined. In his primary matchup, he faces Chandler Parsons, the third year stretch SF out of Florida. If there was still any secrecy regarding Parsons’ budding NBA status coming into this season, it’s certainly out now, as Parsons has established himself as a more than legitimate third option in the Rockets’ offense, averaging 17 points per game on the year while maintaining a true shooting percentage sniffing the ballpark of 60.
Zach Randolph vs Terrence Jones
Terrence Jones has missed the past two contests with a thigh contusion that he suffered in practice, but after being a gametime decision on Wednesday, was likely to rejoin his comrades in the starting lineup tonight. Now it is being reported that he missed yesterday’s practice due to an illness, so we’ll have to wait and see if the Rockets put him out there tonight. Jones is not exactly your prototype power forward, but that has not seemed to negatively affect his productivity any. Before getting hurt, he had been going absolutely nuts in January, averaging 16.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, while shooting 52% from the floor. Zbo did his thing against the Rockets last time the Grizzlies played them, to the tune of 23 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, and an awesome $25,000 soundbyte. I could see him somewhat replicating his individual success with the shaky matchup tonight, especially given that Marc Gasol is in the lineup to draw Howard away.
Marc Gasol vs Dwight Howard
I’m definitely glad for the gap between the Pelicans game Monday night and this one, giving Marc Gasol some much needed time to squeeze in extra rest for that knee of his. We all know that he’s not anywhere near rounded into form just yet, so he’ll definitely need it against the man many know as the number one center in the game. As I mentioned earlier, Howard nearly fouled out of the last contest against our Grizz, and as a fun fact, they are the only team in the league that he is averaging less than 10 points against this season. However, I can’t quite say I’m optimistic about this one without Marc firing on all cylinders.
The Grizzlies’ bench has been vastly improved lately, and is only getting deeper as Marc, and soon Tony return from their respective injuries. The question that will stand, however, asks whether deeper is really better? With so many players making solid contributions to the team, some guys will be stuck as the odd ones out. It’s up to Coach Joerger to make the right decisions and call the numbers of those providing the most advantageous outlook given the situation. The Rockets’ bench is still hurting a bit, with the disgruntled Asik having been out since basically November, and Francisco Garcia dealing with a knee injury, but the return of Beverley assists them with their depth tremendously, allowing Jeremy Lin to return to his subersub role. Additionally, the Grizzlies must be wary of Omri Casspi, who has revitalized his career in Houston and has sneakily explosive scoring potential as evidenced by his 20 point output earlier in the week against Sacramento.