GAME: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets
Time: 7:00 pm CST
PLACE: The FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (0-2), Houston (1-1)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Houston – Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Luis Scola
Memphis has won four in a row, although their last three have come by a combined 7 points. The first victory in their current streak? Oh, that was a win over the same Houston Rockets squad they beat on Valentine’s Day. And not just a win, but one in which Tony Allen made Kevin Martin a mere spectator (0 pts, 2 ast, 1 TO), and Mike Conley continued to prove his detractors wrong — many of whom still say the team should have kept Kyle Lowry and traded him instead — by scoring 7 of their last 9 points, starting with a 3-pointer that halted a would-be Rockets surge.
Houston played last night, resulting in a relatively easy win over the Utah Jazz. Lowry paced them with 32 points and 9 assists, and will be hoping to do more of the same in tonight’s contest. Patrick Patterson got his first start of the season, replacing the underperforming Samuel Dalembert in the lineup. That change likely came about as a result of the Rockets getting completely owned by the Timberwolves in the paint on Friday night. That’s not hyperbole either. When you lose the rebounding battle by nearly 20 and allow Nikola Pekovic to grab 9 (9?!?!?!) offensive rebounds, then you’re officially a whipping boy. Oh…and Pekovic also chipped in some scoring….to the tune of 30 points. Sounds like what no-name opposing big men once did the the Grizzlies in those days of yesteryear. Kevin Love went for 33 and 17 in that same game.
As divisional foes, these two teams know each other well, with Houston usually getting the best of the Grizzlies over the course of the season. As this handy page on ClutchFans.net shows, the Rockets are one of those teams that the Grizzlies don’t often get over on. So, starting off the season by taking the first two games from them is a departure from the norm. Will it continue though?
For the Grizzlies to win, they will need to continue to ride Marc Gasol like the warhorse that he is. Obviously, it will still be a team effort, but Gasol is the linchpin for everything at the moment. Run the offense through him, and don’t be surprised when he flirts with a triple-double like he did Friday night. Conley will need to be on his toes as Lowry attempts to exact revenge on the Grizzlies yet again, and Allen can rest assured that Kevin Martin has no intention of going scoreless in this game. Rudy Gay might have the simplest job of the night: Dominate. From the opening tip, #22 has to be aggressive and force the issue by going to the basket relentlessly.
For the Rockets to win, they will have to do all they can get Gasol and Conley in foul trouble. Also, like most teams, they will need to hit outside shots to stay in the game. That means that Lowry, Martin and the rest of the crew will need to take advantage of every open shot they encounter on the perimeter. One key player to watch will be Courtney Lee, who can light it up off the bench, meaning O.J. Mayo had better be ready on both ends of the floor.
Prediction: Houston gets a small measure of revenge with a close win at home.