The West is just better than the East. Has been for a long time. I mentioned it through the TDS Twitter account yesterday, but I'll repeat it here: it just seems like the top 8 teams in the West are the best 8 teams in the NBA right now.
Yes Cleveland has LeBron and Toronto has ridden a home-heavy early schedule to a bunch of wins and everyone likes Washington and Derrick Rose is back, but look at the Mavs. They have gone into Toronto, DC, and now Chicago and won games. Outside of a trip to Cleveland in January, the Mavs have played the toughest Eastern Conference games on their schedule and won them all.
In the past, those are the games that have separated good Western Conference teams from great ones. Sure a team like Portland can beat any team on any given night, but they usually drop a few games every year to the Leastern Conference. You can lose games to the Memphises and the Golden States of the West, but if you won all the games you were supposed to against the East, you could still win the conference. San Antonio has lived this mantra for years.
But now everyone has figured this out. The games against the bad teams seem to be guaranteed wins for the West teams, and it's blemishes like the Rockets losing to the Lakers and Dallas losing to Indiana that might haunt them at the end of the season.
So my point is that while Houston will gun for this game and that the tie breaker implications are there, this game may not be as important as the game against Minnesota on Friday.
Odd fact: Memphis last played a back-to-back November 7-8 and don't play a back-to-back until December 12-13. Memphis fans got a little pissy with me when I mentioned that last game, but it's still a crazy fact. In those same 5ish weeks, Houston will play 4 back-to-backs. The Grizzlies schedule does get crazy in March, but right now they're riding a nice stretch for an older team. And they're taking full advantage, like great teams do.
And yes, I know the Thunder lost to the Pelicans last night. Besides the Thunder being with KD for the first time this season, good teams have been losing to bad teams. It just seems rarer than usual this season.
As I write this, the Magic are beating the Warriors by 9 with 4:05 left. I expect the Warriors to come back and win this game because that's how this season has been going. (Later note: Warriors close on a 14-4 run, win on a late Curry 3. If only Bovada had live betting for this game).
Also, if someone says grit-and-grind I'm banning them.
Tip off is at 7pm CST
Point Guard: Propeller Plane vs. Mike Conley
Mike Conley is probably going to make PP work a little harder than Milwaukee made him work in defending the PG position.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Courtney Lee/Tony Allen
Will we get the Harden that took over in the third quarter against the Bucks? Or do we get the Harden that disappeared against this Memphis team the first time around? I think much like Harden has a reputation for drawing contact, the Grizzlies have a reputation for good clean defense that trumps Harden's attempts to get to the line. So he has to shoot from the outside because the refs allow him to get pushed around inside. The same thing happens when Houston plays OKC.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Tayshaun Prince
At the beginning of the season, every time Ariza rose up for a shot I expected him to hit it. Recently that's totally switched around. He takes wide open shots that look like they don't have a prayer of going in. When you watch pickup basketball, you see two types of shooters: the one who makes his shots because he's practiced his form and he's prepared to shoot, and the one who just lucks into a made 3 every 5 shots. Ariza is playing like the latter right now, and Houston needs more from him right now.
Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Zach Randolph
I love when TDS writers post pieces about players because they are usually great reads.
Also, I love that I can link to them and not have to write about how I think D-Mo will get beaten by Z-Bo and instead let you read Matt's piece about how D-Mo looks ready to take the next step.
Center: Tarik Black vs. Marc Gasol
Last season the Grizzlies lost Gasol for 23 games. So far early in the season, the Grizzlies have had their 3 best players for all 17 games.
Can you tell I have healthy star envy? Get well soon Dwight!
Rockets: Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Francisco Garcia, Joey Dorsey
Grizzlies: Courtney Lee/Tony Allen, Jon Leuer, Kosta Koufos, Beno Udrih, Vince Carter
Prediction: Rockets fall 102-81.
Grizzlies vs Rockets coverage