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Houston Rockets vs. Memphis Grizzlies preseason game preview

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After shaking off some of their quarantine-induced rust against the Toronto Raptors, the Rockets now face a team that enters the seeding games with a bit more urgency than the defending champions.

The Memphis Grizzlies sit 3.5 games ahead of a trio of teams in the West (Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento) and four games ahead of a fourth (San Antonio). While Memphis holds that advantage, they are in the driver’s seat for the final spot in the West. However, with the rule stating that there will be a play-in if the ninth place team is within four games of the eighth place finisher, there’s a high probability that the West will in fact feature the play-in format. In that scenario, the eighth and ninth seed will play each other, with the eighth seed being in a double elimination situation and the ninth seed being in a single elimination situation.

Thus, Memphis comes into the seeding games in the driver’s seat. They play three of the aforementioned four teams to start, then close with the top three Eastern Conference teams, who will probably be set in their spots at that time. They’ll still need to win the play-in round, of course, but it’s always fun to see a young team make the playoffs.

The biggest story for Memphis has been Ja Morant. The rookie has been sensational this season, averaging 18/7 on some pretty efficient shooting splits. His next level offensively will probably involve some combination of taking more threes and/or getting to the free throw line more often. He’s also leading in the “Who’s your favorite young player?” polls. Seriously, it’s like it’s illegal to answer that question with anyone else. Just like “Who’s the most underrated superstar?” is required to be answered with “Damian Lillard.” Anyway, Morant is really good and is going to be a nightmare in the league.

I watched the first half of Houston’s game against Toronto and the easy takeaways are that the team looks ready on offense but not defense. That’s to be expected, as the Rockets can probably run their offense in their sleep. Defensively, everyone is going to be a bit slow to start. It’s how teams adjust that will determine their success in Orlando.

Memphis is technically the home team, so we’ll get their announcers tonight. They can’t be worse than the “Our team is the greatest of all-time” Toronto Raptors announcers, right?

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on NBA TV