This will be a bit of a different preview. No matchups but a little more conversation.
Two discussions have come up since the Rockets made the FREAKING PLAYOFFS BABY!!!
Before we get to that, I'd just like to say that I reacted very strongly to the playoff clinch. Even more so than I did to this, and I love Duck Tales.
DuckTales Remastered - Announcement Trailer [HD] (via GamersPrey)
The first discussion is centered around whether the Rockets can overtake the Warriors for the 6 seed in the West. Currently, the Rockets sit a game behind the Bay Area ballers, but the Rockets hold the tiebreaker if the teams are tied four games from now.
I think for the Rockets to give themselves a chance, they need to go 3-1 down the stretch. That will be difficult, and I expect the Rockets to go 2-2. Games against the Suns and Kings should (repeat: should) be wins, but tonight's opponent and the Lakers in the finale will be difficult.
The second question is who the Rockets would want to play in the first round. And one of those possibilities is tonight's opponents: the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Rockets were outclassed the last time they played the Grizzlies. So much so that McHale went to the bench and stuck with them to try a comeback. James Harden scored 7 points and had zero free throws. Much like Iggy in Denver, the Grizzlies have the ability to counter Houston's best wing. What's more, the Grizzlies have two of the best bigs in the NBA. They're difficult to beat, and the Rockets need their threes to fall and foul calls to go their way in any series with the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies bolstered their defensive wing presence by adding Tayshaun Prince in the Rudy Gay trade. Prince's numbers are down (as expected) since the trade, but that's giving him more of a chance to focus on the defensive end. Having both Prince and Tony Allen allows the Grizzlies to switch back and forth and give Harden many different looks. The first choice is probably still Allen, but having Prince as a contingency plan is pretty darn good.
Mike Conley has quietly started to prove doubters like myself wrong when we said he was getting overpaid. He still makes more money than I'd pay him, but it isn't a laughable figure by any means. He's a very good NBA point guard. He'll be a difficult matchup for Jeremy Lin or Patrick Beverley.
As for the front line, Zach Randolph is a known entity. Big, strong, and relentless. He's capable of beating teams by himself and looks interested in defense too. That's bad news for us.
The other half of the duo is Marc Gasol, the current favorite for Defensive Player of the Year (my vote is Duncan, but I don't have a real vote and I won't argue with anyone that thinks Gasol deserves it). Fair or not, the Grizzlies and Gasol will always be judged in comparison to Pau Gasol and what he's done in LA (two titles), but Marc Gasol has made the Grizzlies a fringe contender this season and no one would be surprised if Gasol leads this stingy defense deep into the playoffs.
The bench actually does favor the Rockets, but the Grizzlies have the starting horses to go 40 minutes a game if need be. Remember, in the playoffs you get a day off between every game and there are extra off days for travel as well. If it's starters vs. starters, as it's likely to be, give the advantage to the team formerly from Vancouver.
Prediction for tonight: Rockets come out hot, cool off, then heat back up just in time to win by 5.
Tip-off at 7pm CST.
For a Grizzlies perspective, check out Grizzly Bear Blues
Other important games today:
Golden State vs. Los Angeles (9:30pm)
No important games Saturday unless you're looking at who could win the 3 seed. Then Clippers vs. Grizz will intrigue you.