Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Houston Rockets
When: Friday, November 9, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (3-1), Houston (2-2)
Media: Sportsouth, NBA TV, NBA League Pass, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis heads into tonight’s matchup rockin’ and rollin’, carrying steam from three straight victories against the Warriors, Jazz, and Bucks. The team has hit a groove during its last stretch, spearheaded by phenomenal production out of its powerful front court. Zach Randolph has been providing his characteristic otherworldly rebounding, Marc Gasol has taken the reins of the offense as a jack-of-all-trades point-man in the paint, and Rudy Gay has been looking to exploit mismatches and picking his spots the way fans have always hoped he would. Given our dominance on the front lines in spite of the fact that the efficiency is not all there (Zach and Rudy are shooting 44.6% and 36.8% from the field, respectively), there is plenty of room for optimism around the core. Speaking of optimism, how about the bench? After struggling a tad through the first two bouts, Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless, and Wayne Ellington are refreshing our memories on what it’s like to have a few guys on the floor who can nail open shots from beyond the arc… and refreshing it is. Additionally, kudos to Mo Speights, who showed off his stroke from inside the arc en route to an 18 point, 9 rebound gem off the bench in Milwaukee. The Grizzlies aim to close out longtime thorn in their side, the Houston Rockets, as they host them for Military Appreciation Night. In the spirit of the event, the Grizzlies will be hosting a celebration in honor of military service member, Sean Bennett.
Houston was the talk of the league just over a week ago with the acquisition of stud swingman, James Harden, but the euphoria is wearing off in the wake of painful back-to-back losses at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets. Despite the extraterrestrial kick-start that Harden gave the Rockets in their first two games, the team is still very raw, and he is far from incorporated into the offense. That is, the Rockets have yet to really build much of an offense around him. Free-wheeling pick and rolls can only get you so far, and there are certainly going to be some growing pains. Offseason acquisitions Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik have been productive, but neither has been without flaws. Lin has been decent, but has not made Rockets fans forget about Kyle Lowry, while Asik has annihilated the glass, but is setting new standards for a starting center in terms of offensive ineptitude in the process. They’re looking to get back on track against the Grizzlies, to establish some momentum as they head into a three game home stand.
Things to Watch For: First and foremost, I have got to say that it should be nice to face them without Kevin Martin anymore! Now that that’s out of the way… Given the Rockets’ lack of preparation time for their shifting focal points on offensive, in conjunction with Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and even Rudy Gay’s proficiency to live in the passing lanes, the Grizzlies are in grand position to generate a ton of turnovers, tonight. It doesn’t help the Rockets’ cause that Jeremy Lin is turnover-prone by nature. However, the Grizzlies cannot allow this to let them get too comfortable with gambling for the steal, because Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Carlos Delfino can all step in and make the jumper, or cut to the rack, draw a defender and kick to one of their many stretch fours to make them pay. Houston has enough post players to throw fresh bodies at Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph all night long, but few of these options can be expected to bring enough physicality to the court to really slow them down. As forward rich as the Rockets’ roster is, they have taken the Grizzlies of years past’s cake when it comes to shallow back courts. Jerryd Bayless may be in store for the best performance of his young Grizzly career if he sees enough burn against Toney Douglas, tonight. The Rockets are a case study in expanding the roles of efficient role players, and seeing what happens, and the Grizzlies look to reap the benefits of their being in the early stages of the process.
Matchup of the Night: Tony Allen vs. James Harden – In their last few appearances versus one another, Allen has gone into the match-up certainly more focused on Harden’s former teammates, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the ability to head into the game preparing solely for what he has to offer, I would expect Tony’s chances to neutralize Harden’s offensive game to be very high. In his incredibly small sample size with the Rockets, Harden has turned the ball over 5.3 times per game, and one can hardly expect Allen to make it any easier on him.
I would like to extend a mighty thanks to Zack Lawrence for his helpful insight on the Houston Rockets.