Tonight, two of the six remaining undefeated NBA teams square off in Houston. What’s more, both teams have a win over the Warriors.
That was a powerful win for the Rockets last year. After knocking off the Dubs in their building in double overtime, the Rockets won 19 of their next 21 contests. That win also coincided with a break in the schedule where Houston finally started to play some home games, too. But the confidence of beating the Warriors (no matter the venue) is usually a huge deal for teams.
Think about it: beating the champions is supreme validation. Suddenly, the players look around and go “Hey, we’ve got the juice to win a lot of games and contend.” Furthermore, it solidifies faith in the coaching staff and gives them confidence that their drills, plays, development, etc. are all on the right track. That belief in yourself and your team gives you an edge where every time you step on the court, you know you can beat the other team. That one fact alone can be the difference between winning and losing.
That’s suddenly unfortunate for the Rockets since the Memphis Grizzlies are also coming off a 111-101 win over the Warriors on Saturday night to push themselves to 2-0.
There were a lot of questions regarding the Grizzlies’ offseason. After throwing $50+ million combined per year at Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley, coupled with Marc Gasol’s salary, the Grizz were forced to start nipping at the heart of their rotation. Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen are gone. In their places are extra minutes for returners and some fresh faces. Houston is likely to see plenty of James Ennis III, Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin, Dillon Brooks, and Tyreke Evans.
The Grizz used to be a team where you knew the Rockets would need all their bigs. The combination of Z-Bo and Gasol was taxing on players, even as Randolph advanced in age and came off the bench last year.
Teams with that kind of turnover usually need time to gel and form an identity. These Grizzlies can’t be the Grit and Grind Grizzlies of years’ past. They need to be someone else.
Their first step was beating the champs. Now they get Houston.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT.