Game Day: Houston Rockets versus Memphis Grizzlies
Though the Houston Rockets managed to secure interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff a win in his first outing it took a wild shot from Corey Brewer to send the game to over time. In fact, other than bringing Ty Lawson off the bench the team looked and played exactly the way they had prior to McHale leaving other than a few effort plays.
There remains major issues on the defensive end and James Harden is still not shooting well or taking wise shots for the most part. His overtime performance was more in line with what the Rockets got from him last season, but was that simply because his efficiency went up?
In Memphis the Rockets will face a squad of similar ilk in that they’ve also struggled mightily in the early season and who made a change though theirs involved adding a player instead of firing coach Dave Joerger.
Venue: Fed Ex Forum, Memphis
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: ROOT in Houston and Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 790 AM and WMFS
- James Ennis – illness, day to day
- Jordan Adams – knee, questionable for game
- Brandan Wright – knee, day to day
- Jarell Martin – foot, targeting January
- Sam Dekker – back -scheduled for back surgery Friday, will be out 3 months
- Patrick Beverley sustained a twisted ankle, listed as day to day
- Donatas Motiejunas – still recovering from off season back surgery, no update on scheduled return date
Grading the Match-ups:
Point Guard -Mike Conley versus Jason Terry or Patrick Beverley (if he returns)
The Grizzlies relied so heavily on Conley to create everyone on the teams shots it was imperative they made the early move to add Mario Chalmers. That showcases just how vital Conley is to the offense of the Grizzlies. When healthy he ranks among the league best and continues to be the most under rated point guard in the NBA. Conley controls pace better than any PG and is a versatile offensive player, but manages to also rank high defensively.
At this point there is no word on whether Patrick Beverley will play, but given Bickerstaff’s first change was to insert Jason Terry in the line-up it appears Lawson will come off the bench
Edge: Mike Conley
Shooting Guard: Jeff Green vs. James Harden
Memphis have flirted with Jeff Green starting and have also had him come off the bench, of late he’s back with the starters, but his inconsistency remains an issue. He tends to get up for big games and match-ups so he’ll likely have a decent showing tonight.
Harden is squarely in the spotlight as being the remaining issue on the team based on players telling reporters under the request of staying anonymous that the team has issues with James Harden eating up so much clock and not involving the team and his lack of effort on defense. Let’s see how he responds with McHale gone and knowing any new loss will fall on his shoulders more than anyone else on the team.
A very telling stat comes via nba.com:
". Harden’s up-and-down play has mirrored Houston’s rocky start. He’s averaged 39.8 points and shot 44.4 percent in the five wins, compared to 20.9 and 30.2 percent in the seven defeats"
Edge: James Harden
Small Forward: Tony Allen vs Trevor Ariza
Allen will be tasked with guarding Harden so we’ll know out of the gate how the zebra’s will call this one by whether they allow Allen to aggressively guard the Beard. If Beverley is back it would make for a more interesting contest as Allen and Beverley are similar defensive minded players who provide little offensively.
Though Ariza had a few tough games they came after he took some pretty hard falls and overall he along with Jones has been their most consistent player.
Slight Edge: Trevor Ariza
Power Forward: Zach Randolph vs Terrence Jones
Historically Jones has issues guarding players like Randolph, but through their terrible start Jones was one of the few players bringing it every game and providing consistent performances.
ZBo for his part continues to showcase his old man game nightly without every jumping more than 2 inches off the ground, but still managing to snag copious rebounds. Along with Marc Gasol in the front court these 2 bigs are arguably the best passing power forward and center in the NBA.
Center: Marc Gasol vs. Dwight Howard
The Grizzlies signed Marc Gasol to a handsome contract in the off season and he’s worth every penny. He he won’t post huge scoring efforts like a DeMarcus Cousins or demonstratively grab rebounds and blocks like Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside the reality is he can beat ANY OF THEM on any given night. Gasol is the rare big who can do it all; he can score in the post or on the perimeter and more importantly he can defend either. Howard for his part has been strong on the boards, but vacillated between good and bad games on offense.
Edge: Marc Gasol
Houston should hope Lawson can translate the type of success Mario Chalmers has with Memphis (scoring 29 points versus OKC).
Slight Edge: Grizzlies
Keys To Winning:
- Slow the production of Conley and his ability to enter the paint
- Push the ball in transition and set the pace, Houston needs to take advantage of that speed, but do it logically not haphazardly. Houston have an advantage over Memphis in the fast break category but it needs to be down under control.
- Likewise Memphis has a huge points in the paint advantage which the Rockets have been brutal at defending
- Control the ball and keep turnovers down.
- Fresh start – use the opportunity to treat this like a new season start and not continue bad habits
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The odds makers have Memphis favored to win by 4 points with an over/under of 202 points. I know Clutch City fans want to believe the firing of Kevin McHale will magically transform the team, but until they fix their glaring issues on defense (which will start when Beverley returns to the starting line-up) and make the offense less predictable they haven’t addressed the problems that resulted copious losses.
I’d go with the odds makers on this one unless we see Beverley back from injury and starting. Sorry
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