Game Day: Houston Rockets vs. Memphis Grizzlies
By Ben Casey
The Rockets score the second most points per game in the league. The Grizzlies, conversely, allow the second fewest points points. Tonight should be interesting.
Tonight’s matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Grizzlies will be dogfight. The grittiness of Memphis’s defense versus the tenacity of Patrick Beverley and company will make for primetime basketball. The game could also provide some insight to ongoing debate of whether or not good offense is better than good defense.
It’s close to impossible to predict which version of the Grizzlies you’ll get on any given night. Sometimes, the team that held the Warriors to 89 points en route to beating them by 21 without Mike Conley is the one that shows up. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario was when the same group of guys (plus Conley) managed to put only 73 points on the board in a loss to the Jazz.
It’s that wild unpredictability that makes Memphis dangerous. How does a coach go about game planning for a team that has such a high ceiling and low floor? Mike D’Antoni will have his work cut out for him tonight, especially if the opponent comes prepared.
Dec 18, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) shoots against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
The toughest job of the contest will almost assuredly be Nene and Montrezl Harrell having to contain Marc Gasol.
After being a defensive-minded player for the vast majority of his career, Gasol decided to join the ranks of the unicorns and added a lethal three point shot to his game. This season, he’s shooting a blistering 43.4% from beyond the arc. To put that in perspective, James Harden is only shooting 34.9% from long range.
Houston will feel Clint Capela‘s absence when it becomes clear that his backups aren’t capable of keeping up with the new and improved Gasol on the perimeter. The Swiss Roll doesn’t compare to Kawhi Leonard, but his youth allows him to be much more mobile on the outside than the 34-year-old Nene.
For the Rockets to be competitive tonight, they’ll have to be knocking down their three pointers. That could be said of every game they play, but it’s especially true tonight against a proven defensive club like the Grizzlies.
Houston is shooting better than 37% on the season, though, so it’s well within reason to expect accuracy. There was concern that the Beard wouldn’t be able to find as many open shots for his teammates without the threat of a Capela lob looming, but that was proven folly by their shooting nearly 50% on 38 long ball attempts against the Suns on Wednesday.
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Before the Clippers beat the Spurs last night, Houston sat at third in the Western Conference. Now, they’re once again tied with Chris Paul and company.
In a battle to prove themselves elite, every game matters for the Rockets. The Grizzlies sit just one spot back at the fifth seed, so tonight’s game could end up making quite a difference come the end of the season.
The Houston Rockets are the better team of the two, but the Grizzlies could come out with unexpected confidence and competence. That’s the thing about Memphis, you just never know what you’re going to get.
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Follow @SpaceCity_Scoop on Twitter for live updates during the game. Once the Rockets (hopefully) build towards another 10-game winning streak, check back here for a recap.