Memphis sits at 36-25 and squarely in the logjam that is the 4-7 seeds in the West. The Grizzlies, Jazz, Clippers, and Thunder all sit within 2 games of each other. Obviously, the 4 seed is preferable because of homecourt advantage. But everything has to be weighed based on potential matchups as well. Right now, it’s too early to make decisions or try to manipulate the standings. So all 4 teams are gunning for that 4 seed.
But the 4 seed carries an intrinsic risk. While Golden State will undoubtedly have issues without Durant, everyone expects the Warriors to be healthy when the playoffs begin. If Golden State is the 1 seed, then the 4 and 5 seeds will be playing for the right to face the Warriors.
The Thunder are 0-3 against Golden State. The Jazz are 0-2. The Clippers were swept by the Dubs. None of those teams want any part of the Warriors. In the back of each team’s minds, they probably believe they have a better shot of beating the Spurs and Rockets than they do beating the Warriors. Part of those three times are all wondering if being the 6 or 7 seed wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. What if the Rockets go cold? What if Kawhi Leonard has a few bad games? Those are more likely scenarios than “Golden State goes cold 4 times out of 7.”
However, Grizzlies almost certainly don’t. At 2-1, they hold the season series lead and get the Dubs one more time. But more importantly, this is a veteran Grizzlies team. They know they can play with anyone on any given night. They have no reservations. They want that fourth seed. And tonight’s contest against Houston would give them the win in the season series. What if Houston collapses? What if Memphis goes on a run and grabs the 3 seed? Those are questions they can start to ask if they take care of business tonight.
For Houston, it’s about grabbing rebounds against a bigger front line once again. The Clippers presented a challenge that Houston was able to conquer. This Memphis team won’t be so easy to defeat. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the usual suspects, but JaMychal Green averages seven boards per contest and the Grizzlies have plenty of other players that are athletic enough to gobble rebounds.
James Ennis has played decently against Houston and Vince Carter never seems to miss against the Rockets. Troy Daniels triples are always bittersweet.
But if Houston attacks the boards like they did against the Clippers, this is a game they should win in front of the Toyota Center crowd.
Here’s what you need to know about the previous three games: the team that shot better won each game and that the winner scored 110+ in each contest.
“Wow AK! Make a lot of shots and score a lot of points and you win?! What would we do without you?”
Still, it’s true.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT.