Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Houston Rockets
When: 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (47-24), Houston (39-32)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has struggled of late. The Grizzlies are 1-3 in their last four games with losses to two teams with some of the worst records in the league. Memphis has won 10 home games in a row and will be back on their home court tonight. The Grizzlies have come from numerous areas including Marc Gasol’s injury, superb individual performances and tough match ups. What hasn’t occurred is a split between head coach Lionel Hollins and All-Star PF Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies, despite the recent lull have not fallen far behind 3rd and 4th place in the conference but can not afford anymore slip ups if they want to have home court advantage in the playoffs. The Grizzlies defense is second in the league in points allowed but 26th in points scored.
Houston is in a playoff race of their own. Just one game behind Golden State for the 6th spot in the conference, and avoiding either San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the 1st round, and just 3 games ahead of the Lakers for 8th. Like the Grizzlies, the Rockets have had to adjust their lineup due to a mid-season trade. The Rockets acquired former #5 pick in the 2012 draft Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt from Sacramento while sending out Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas. Then the Rockets traded Marcus Morris to Phoenix for a 2nd round pick. Big player moves like these take time to gel into a cohesive unit and the Rockets have been erratic of late. There is also something of a PG battle brewing between free agent signing Jeremy Lin and rookie Patrick Beverley. Houston is 2nd in the league in points scored at 106.1 a game but 28th in points allowed at 102.6. Houston is on the road for the first time since March 9th, a span of 7 games. The Rockets are 14-21 on the road this season.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jeremy Lin
Mike Conley has been much more active on the offensive end of late. In his last 10 games Conley has averaged 18.0 PPG and 7.1 APG. While his FG% has been disappointing at only 40% the attacking style has helped the Grizzlies improve their offensive output overall. Lin has been more efficient if less productive averaging 13.8 PPG and 5.0 APG but hitting 49% of his attempts. Lin’s problem has been a decline in minutes as much as a lack of performance. His defensive woes have been exploited and Beverley has been getting more minutes in his place.
Tony Allen vs James Harden
James Harden is one of the highest scoring SGs in the league right now. In his last 10 games he’s averaged 26.2 PPG but is hitting only 38.6% of his attempts. He also is dishing out 6.7 assists so his teammates share in the attempts. Allen is considered one of the best defenders in the league but even he will be tested by Harden. In two games so far they have split the battle. In the first game Allen came out on top holding Harden to 4-18 shooting. In game 2, Harden had the upper hand going 9-13 on the way to scoring 31 points. Allen has been performing better on the offensive end of late which could distract Harden somewhat but when the Beard is on, there is little anyone can do.
Tayshaun Prince vs Chandler Parsons
Parsons also had up and down games against Memphis but that was being guarded by Rudy Gay. Tayshaun Prince is a much different defender, relying more on position and his BBIQ rather than superior physical talent. Parsons is not a great defensive player but he is a deadly shooter hitting 37.8% of his 3 point attempts. Parsons doesn’t rebound particularly well as he prefers to remain on the perimeter on offense. Prince has not shot the ball well in Memphis but he has rebounded and defended well. When teams don’t respect Prince however he still is capable of punishing a team on the offensive end as the Clippers recently found out. Forcing Parsons to focus on defense can detract him from his offensive game.
Zach Randolph vs Donatas Motiejunas
7 ft. Montiejunas became starter by default after the trades but he has held off fellow rookie Thomas Robinson to keep the role. His minutes are abbreviated on most nights just the same. His defense is suspect and his shooting predictably low but he isn’t asked to do much anyway. Randolph couldn’t have a better matchup after struggling on the road. Randolph has been double and triple teamed lately forcing him away from the basket. However, with Gasol back that is a dangerous play if your bigs aren’t fast enough and Houston’s aren’t. One of the few situations tonight where one team has a clear and intimidating advantage.
Marc Gasol vs Omer Asik
Marc Gasol is playing and may not be 100% yet, but he’s still better than any other alternative Memphis has at center. After missing two games, and scaring many fans who felt he would be out much longer, Gasol came back against the Knicks but didn’t have the impact he had earlier in the month. His pedestrian 13 points and 5 rebounds were solid but not spectacular considering his defenders. Asik will likely struggle offensively not only because Gasol is such a good defender but because he usually struggles offensively. However he is a strong rebounder averaging 11.9 a game. Asik’s rebounding triggers Houston’s running game and keeping him away from the glass is imperative to win the game. This is a weakness for Gasol and his sore abdomen but Gasol is smart and big.
Houston has been getting nice production from their three rookies (Montiejunas, Beverley and Robinson) but the core of the bench could be Carlos Delfino. Delfino has played SG, SF and PF lately. His ability to play multiple positions has aided the Rockets tremendously. Beverley is not only looking ahead at minutes from Lin but behind him from recently signed Aaron Brooks. Greg Smith is the muscle off the bench and has served his role well. Bayless has been a 4th quarter scoring machine of late and is the only consistent scoring threat not starting for the Grizzlies. Quincy Pondexter and Darrell Arthur can score on occasion and Ed Davis, a suprising DNP against the Knicks, has a strong touch around the rim and excellent shot blocking ability.