If you think the Rockets got off to a rough start, consider how the Grizzlies began their season. After letting Lionel Hollins go in the offseason, the Grizz opened the season in a nightmare scenario. Not only did they start 3-5, but they were routinely giving up 100 points or more in each loss. For a team that prides itself on defense (I heard the phrase "Grit and Grind" approximately 8 billion times last year in relation to the Grizzlies' style of play), that wasn't a great start.
But they found a cure in the most unlikely of places: a four-game road trip to the West Coast. In a six-night period, they defeated the Lakers, Kings, Clippers, and Warriors. Then on Friday they welcomed the Spurs to the FedEx Forum and promptly lost Marc Gasol to an MCL sprain.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will be without James Harden, who's likely to miss tonight with a sore foot once again.
So, if you're thinking about panicking over a 9-5 record, please stop and see what's happening around the Rockets. All it takes is one run and suddenly any team can look pretty good. At the same time, one injury can rock a team. We'll see many runs and injuries this season. That's why people say not to get too high on the highs and not to get too low on the lows.
The Grizzlies are one of 12 teams in the West at .500 or better, and how they handle the short-term loss of Gasol will dictate how they approach the rest of their season. I always like seeing teams from smaller markets doing well. Especially since Houston isn't considered a big market by the NBA.
Also I'm putting this here since this is one of the best fan-made promo vids I've seen in a while. Also, it has the music from The Man of Steel. I'm a geek. Sue me.
Tip off is at 7pm CST
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Mike Conley
The key to the Grizzlies offense is in the possession of Conley. He's come a long way since he was drafted. Admittedly, I didn't think he would turn into much of an NBA talent but he's proven me wrong and has been in the All-Star conversation for the last couple of years. Certainly, he's living up to that contract and then some.
Beverley faces a point guard that's very similar to him in terms of defense. He'll have to keep hitting those open threes and make Conley pay whenever possible.
Shooting Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Tony Allen
I expect Allen to guard Lin tonight and we'll see if Lin keeps up the aggressive game with one of the premier perimeter defenders in the game guarding him.
Allen's averaging 2 steals per game, so the Rockets need to fix their turnover problem ASAP if they don't want him swooping in and making life even more difficult. In fact, the Grizzlies are always at or close to tops in the league in steals.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Tayshaun Prince
Pump-Fake is still doing his thing, pump-faking air any chance he gets. He's also finally shooting a reasonable amount from three again, shooting 47% from three in his last five games. That's not bad, you guys.
Prince is another good perimeter defender, even if his prime is gone. Teams are doubling off of him without abandon, daring him to shoot to beat them. Look for the Rockets to do the same thing.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Zach Randolph
I keep waiting for Jones to play a bad game, but he's performed well despite matching up with Kenneth Faried, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Love. Now, those other guys still had good games, but the big thing for the Rockets is to try to at least not let this matchup be a completely one-sided affair. Jones has been doing just that.
Tonight he faces another interior post player like Love. We all know Z-Bo's game is built on substance and not style, but who cares about the style when it's dropping double-doubles all over the place?
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Kosta Koufos
I assume the Grizz will go big with Koufos at the 5. But Ed Davis will probably play a bunch too. With the bigs available to Memphis they can still play 2 at a time, but they'll probably rely on Koufos to check Howard.
Dwight's been playing pretty well of late, but needs to start making those little bunnies off the offensive rebounds/tips.
Something that's bothering me: I see Dwight catch the ball in the post and get picked by a guard from the weak side at least twice per game. Guess what? That isn't always his fault. The Rockets need to be more vocal about the potential thief (or "wolf" as the pickup slang goes). Howard is turning and expecting to be facing up just his man. If the team can let him to know to pass the ball immediately, they can swing it around and get an open shot or drive out of it. Really, it's reminding me a lot of last year when Rockets guards kept trying to hit Asik with bounce passes at his feet and everyone thought all those turnovers were Asik's fault because he didn't have great hands. The guards have to take responsibility here too. Their job doesn't end with a successful entry pass.
Rockets: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Aaron Brooks, Omer Asik
Grizzlies: Ed Davis, Quincy Pondexter, Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless
Prediction: Too much Conley and Z-Bo, Rockets fall 103-96.
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