The Grizzlies are 28-8 at home and will be a difficult matchup. These two teams will meet one more time in April at the Toyota Center. That game is also likely to be important to both teams. The Rockets are lucky that in April most of their games are against teams firmly entrenched in the lottery. Only the Grizzlies, Nuggets, and Lakers games will likely mean something to both teams. By my count, the Warriors have 4 such games in April, and the Lakers have 6 of them.
And starting today I'll start leaving in games that are upcoming that are important to the Rockets in the playoff chase. We don't care about teams 1-5 in the West, but teams 6-10 certainly do matter and I'll put them here.
Jazz at Trailblazers, 9pm CST.
Tip-off at 7pm CST.
PG: Jeremy Lin vs. Mike Conley
Conley was the Grizzlies leading scorer in their last game against the Knicks.
The Grizzlies trailed by 30 at one point but clawed all the way back to a four point deficit. Much like the Rockets against the Pacers, the Grizzlies were unable to overcome the hole they put themselves in.
As for the point guard matchup, this one is easy. Jeremy has been playing poorly the last couple games and it's hurting the starting unit. It might be fatigue or burn out. Either way, he's got to find himself because this Rockets team will need him.
SG: James Harden vs. Tony Allen
Man, when James Harden struggles the Rockets cannot seem to find a rhythm. There are going to be days when Harden's shots don't fall, and usually the team turned to Lin and Parsons. But with those two guys struggling, it's like an exercise in hair-pulling. The offense gets stale and very little happens. There's a reason the bench is actually playing better than the starters recently, and that's ball movement and plain desire. Those guys are enjoying their time on the court while everyone else is going through the motions.
Can't have that today. the Grizzlies will likely throw both Allen and Prince at Harden. Allen is strong and pesky on defense. Prince isn't as quick as he used to be, but he still has those abnormally long arms. Harden has to be ready and willing to dish.
SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Tayshaun Prince
The Rockets shoot about 37% from the three point line, but they've been well below that average over their last six games. They've had a disturbing number of games shooting in the 20s percentage-wise and shot around 31% during the homestand. When you see that it's a miracle we went 5-2.
For a young team that lives off the drive and kick, you can't shoot that poorly. Everyone is to blame, but it's not more obvious than it is for Parsons. After that incredible streak in early March that was obviously unsustainable, Parsons has come crashing towards the mean. He's lost confidence in his shot and when players pass up shots it throws off the flow of the offense and opens up 3-second violations.
PF: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Zach Randolph
When Harden vs. Allen/Prince will be huge, this matchup is bigger.
In the first matchup, Randolph went 15/14 while D-Mo didn't play since it was early in the season.
Randolph went 10/10 in the second matchup, but that game was so different since the Rockets ran the Grizzlies off the floor.
So what I'm saying is this: if the game turns into a grind-it-out halfcourt contest, Randolph will feast on D-Mo. Motiejunas hasn't figured out post defense yet and he's liable to get called for being a rookie, as Bill Worrell likes to say.
On the other hand, if the Rockets get out and run like they are capable of doing, this game could turn on its head and give D-Mo the advantage. There are few power forwards that can keep up with him, and Z-Bo is not one of them, despite his huge skill set.
C: Omer Asik vs. Marc Gasol
So that abdominal tear that was supposed to keep Gasol out "indefinitely" turned out to only cost him two games. Gasol is a trooper and Rockets fans will always sympathize with big man injuries. Frankly, we sympathize with all injuries. But is it selfish that I wish Gasol was out for this game?
Gasol should be All-Defense this season. In case you were wondering, Memphis' defense is pretty good.
The pressure on Asik to patrol the paint and gobble up boards is always huge, but tonight it's even bigger with both Randolph and Gasol fighting for rebounds.
The Grizzlies use Darrell Arthur, Austin Daye, Quincy Pondexter, and Jason Friedman's whipping boy, Jerryd Bayless.
The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson, and Greg Smith
The Grizz don't have a bad group per se, but the Rockets group has been playing exceptionally well as of late.
Prediction: Since I can never predict a win ever again, Rockets lose 102-91.