Which Rockets team will show up tonight?
That seems to be the question of December. Since beating the Spurs on the last day of November, the Rockets have gone 6-6 and after losing two and winning two, they've had a lose-1 win-1 streak going.
In the losses, the Rockets have looked as bad as possible. The defense looks nonexistent, threes refuse to fall, and opponents suddenly look like world-beaters. In the wins, it's the opposite. The Rockets are getting the bounces and foul calls and Francisco Garcia doesn't look like a walking corpse.
So if the Rockets wish to avoid the hangover effect, they must stay physical and aggressive. They have a real chance to end December 3-1 and finish this part of the season 22-12. If they can do that despite all the injuries, then they will be sitting pretty when the schedule lightens up in early January.
Finally, if I hear the phrase "grit and grind" one more time I'm going to punch someone. I get it. The Grizzlies grind out victories. Putting "grit and" before the word "grind" sounds cool because of the consonance. I don't care. Stop using grind in everything and don't talk about grits unless it's food. No Grindhouse (even if the game is at Toyota Center). No calling Allen the Grindmaster or whatever. I can't take it anymore.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Mike Conley
I feel like I've said the same thing about Conley every year: He's way better than we thought he would be, and he's really improved on offense. He's averaging 17/6 on a team that is desperately missing Marc Gasol.
Jeremy Lin was spectacular against the Grizzlies, and his defense on Parker was about as good as can be. The Rockets need more of that Tenacious D tonight (music video is edited and thus safe for work; however, it is so awesome that it might be NSFW).
Tenacious D - Tribute (via tenaciousDVEVO)
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Tony Allen
Part of me wonders how healthy Harden is. We've seen him come back from this his foot/ankle injuries this year for a game, play well, then either play poorly or get hurt again. If he's the Harden we saw in San Antonio, look out.
If he's remotely human, the best perimeter defender in the league will attempt to shut him down.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. James Johnson
Johnson started for Tayshaun Prince in the last Grizzlies game. Prince is dealing with a knee issue. Johnson has only played four games with the Grizz so far this season so I'm not going to try to break down his game.
Parsons went beast mode in the first quarter against the Spurs. Now, am I the only selfish one who wishes he could play that way for 48 minutes? Or should I just be glad he gave the Rockets a kick-start?
Either way, the Rockets will need to avoid coming out flat tonight since they played last night and the Grizzlies have had two days off.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Zach Randolph
Z-Bo had a pedestrian 13/6 the first time these teams matched up, and it's unlikely to expect the same thing tonight. Randolph's splits are pretty indicative of how the Grizzlies are doing.
In wins: 21 points, 11 rebounds per game on 52% shooting.
In losses: 13 points, 9 rebounds per game on 39% shooting.
Cause, meet effect.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Kosta Koufos
Koufos pulled down 13 boards in the first meeting between these two and was the difference in the first three quarters. If he plays well again and grabs every available rebound, that could spell trouble.
However, Dwight Howard doesn't seem to be giving up many rebounds these days, unless it's to Terrence Jones.
Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi
Grizzlies: Ed Davis, Jon Leuer, Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless
Prediction: Rockets come out flat and too much Z-Bo down the stretch gives the Memphis a gritty 95-88 win.
Grizzlies vs Rockets coverage