First off, thanks to olivarezq1 for the Denver preview. I was out with my friends in Austin that night and I had a fever on top of that. I didn't get to watch the game, but I've seen the highlights. Great win for the good guys.
The Grizz are 36-32, and fighting just like the Rockets to get that last spot away from Portland. They played Chicago last night, and only won by seven, despite the fact that the Bulls were without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, and Joakim Noah.
It's been said a lot here about the Grizzlies, but I think I should reiterate. They've got gallons of talent, and for years they've had nothing to show for it. However, this team has really turned a corner and can compete with any team in the NBA, much like the Rockets.
Finally, I will be at the game with some friends and my brothers. We'll be sitting so high our nosebleeds will have nosebleeds.
Conley is averaging 11 and 5, and hasn't improved much since last year's trade of Kyle Lowry to the Rockets. The trade was supposed to set the table for Conley to run the show, but he's been content to let Mayo and Gay handle the offense. He's good, but he's not even as good as Lowry.
Brooks, on the other hand, finally hit a big shot for the win. They guy has had so many chances, and has usually come away empty handed. I love to see him succeed, and we need more of that to make a playoff push.
Oddly enough, Mayo is having a down year, but he's taking fewer shots and allowing the offense to develop a lot more than in the past. Still, 18/4/3 ain't bad, and I expect Mayo to have a good game tonight. He won't be able to stop Martin, though, so the advantage goes to...
Advantage: Rockets, slightly
SF: Trevor Ariza v. Rudy Gay: Probably the most important matchup of the game. I don't remember how the Rockets defended Mayo and Gay the last time, but that was before Kevin Martin was a Rocket. I expect to see Martin chasing Mayo around for some of the game, and Ariza and Battier guarding Gay when they can. When Martin sits, we'll most likely see either Chase or Ariza/Battier on Mayo.
Gay is averaging 20/6/2. He's shooting better from the field, taking fewer three-pointers, taking more free throws, and passing much better. His steals, blocks, assists, and rebounds are up from last year, and his turnovers and fouls are down. He's really rounding out nicely, and he'll make Grizzlies fans happy as long as he stays.
PF: Luis Scola v. Zach Randolph:
Z-Bo has had an incredible year, and he was given a spot in the all-star game because of it. Rockets fans most likely believe Scola probably deserved that spot more, but Randolph wasn't on the original ballot, and somehow that helped him out.
Nevertheless, the guy has been the catalyst for this team's turnaround. He's putting up 21/12 and just seems to legitimately care more about winning than before.
Luis has been a beast of late, so I'm going to cop out here and say...
In a couple of years, you may start to hear talk about how the Grizzlies won the Pau Gasol trade. Marc has certainly lived up to his end of the bargain, and he's giving them 15/10 a night. Chuck should play him well, though, just like he always does.
Gasol did not play against the Bulls, so he's questionable for tonight's game. If he sits, Hasheem Thabeet will start.
Advantage: Grizzlies, if Gasol plays
Grizzlies: Sam Young, Marcus Williams, Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and former Rocket (briefly) Darrell Arthur comprise the Memphis bench. It's not a great group, but it's better than most benches in the league
Rockets: You know...
Advantage: Rockets, big time.
Prediction: It's St. Patrick's Day on Wednesday, so the Rockets win by 5 (number of letters in "green")