This Southwest Division matchup consists of two squads that have completely fallen off the map from last year. Three weeks into the season, neither team is anywhere close to where they hoped to be.
The Rockets are undefeated with Bickerstaff at the helm (one for one!) and will face a test tonight. Any game played at the "Grind House" is a struggle. Hopefully Bickerstaff's enthusiasm can rejuvenate the Rockets and jump start a win streak after the come from behind victory over the Blazers on Wednesday.
Catch the game tonight at 8:00 ET on ROOT.
Point guard - Ty Lawson/Jason Terry vs. Mike Conley Jr.
With Patrick Beverley out of the lineup, you would think Lawson is the starter by default. Wrong. Last game, Lawson played 20 minutes and shot 1-8 with 2 points. Jason Terry relieved him and did his job well enough to surpass Lawson in minutes (28 for JET against Portland). Terry's plus/minus was +8, while Lawson's was -5.
Terry will start tonight and the Grizzlies have the edge no matter what Rocket started. Mike Conley is a functional point guard on both sides of the ball who doesn't turn the ball over, which will impair the Rockets offense by preventing break aways.
Advantage: Grizzlies by landslide
Shooting Guard - James Harden vs. Courtney Lee
I sure hope James Harden listened to Zach Lowe's podcast with David Thorpe. Ever since McHale got fired, Harden has been getting ripped to pieces by the same media who praised him last year. In the past couple days, he has been called a quitter, fake-superstar, and diva. But nothing compares to Lowe's podcast, where the criticism was so harsh, Thorpe's tone was more disappointed than angry.
Courtney Lee is the definition of an average NBA player. He stays in front of his man on defense, but lacks elite physical gifts. He can shoot off the catch, but can't create for himself or others. Statistically, he always hovers around the benchmark 15 PER.
No matter how bad James Harden is playing, Courtney Lee is not on his level. Defensively, Lee will struggle locating Harden on impenetrable ball screens from Dwight Howard. Plus, since Lee just camps out in the corner on offense for spacing, Harden will get to chill in help defense for the majority of the game.
Expect a big night from The Beard, who now has to prove he is not a quitter.
Small Forward - Trevor Ariza vs. Tony Allen
You can find more offense at the YMCA in Houston than in this pairing.
Advantage: Ariza (bleh)
Power Forward - Terrence Jones vs. Zach Randolph
Terrence Jones and Zach Randolph have both played solid of late. By the numbers, Z-Bo's 15 points/9 rebounds in the last 10 games outmatch Jones' 14/5 in the last five contests. Jones is more athletic, but Randolph has a more polished post game.
While Jones' athleticism is a huge factor in up-tempo games, this probably will not be one. Zach Randolph's big body and aggression in the low post will be too much for Jones.
Advantage: Zach Randolph
Center - Dwight Howard vs. Marc Gasol
This is definitely the matchup to watch tonight. Every time these two go head to head, it's great entertainment for basketball fans.
Howard's brute physicality contrasts with Gasol's beautiful finesse play. The two can collide one play or twist past one another on the next. Gasol usually does the spinning and Howard the crashing, but you get the picture.
Although they are both in their early thirties, Howard has played four more NBA seasons than Gasol, who is theoretically at the back end of his physical prime.
I have been impressed with Howard this season, even though he has only played 8 games. As Alykhan observed, Dwight is working really hard defensively and it is showing up. He is the only one so far that has outperformed my expectations.
Dwight looks good. pic.twitter.com/gwBbwYmkmd— Rockets Insider (@Rockets_Insider) November 19, 2015
Since Superman expected to sit out tomorrow night, as it is the second game of a back-to-back, we might see Playoff Dwight tonight.
Advantage: Dwight Howard
Rockets: Corey Brewer, Ty Lawson, Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Thornton, Clint Capela
Grizzlies: Jeff Green, Matt Barnes, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Wright, Vince Carter
The Grizzlies have been effective this year with Jeff Green at the power forward spot and playing small ball. Also, Brandan Wright's (18 PER) rim rolling is a real offensive weapon.
Prediction: Even though the Rockets have all the individual advantages, basketball is and always will be a team sport. They have yet to prove they can play as a team for 48 minutes. Grizzlies take this one 94-87 in the Grind House.
Rockets vs. Grizzlies Coverage
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