Dec 23, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) drives against Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Houston 115-109. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
After a heavy defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets will head to Memphis in search of redemption.
Not too long ago, the Houston Rockets had a perfect record playing after a loss. However, with consecutive losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies just over a week ago, that streak came to an end.
Now that the streak is over, it’s crucial that the Rockets to continue to respond in the face of adversity. In today’s game, that importance is multiplied against a team they are yet to beat.
The Houston Rockets are currently 0-2 against the Grizzlies, so a strong performance is vital for multiple reasons.
Firstly, the Rockets have had a tough stretch over the last six games, going 2-4 in that span. However, most importantly, the Rockets would like to prove that they can beat the Grizzlies – a possible playoff opponent.
Given that the Rockets only made 10 threes on 41 attempts in their last meeting with the Grizzlies, and given that they have only made 30% of their threes over the last five games, it seems unlikely that they can rely on hot three-point shooting to drive a win today.
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Ryan Anderson didn’t travel with the team to Memphis, so the Rockets are once again short an elite three-point shooter and will have to rely on Corey Brewer for spacing. Basically that means the Rockets will have to find other ways to win.
With the return of Clint Capela and the rise of Montrezl Harrell, the Rockets pick and roll combos and offensive rebounding will be extremely important against this Gritty Grizzlies team. However, the defense will be of paramount importance.
In previous match-ups the Rockets have done well to contain the Grizzlies core pieces, but they haven’t been able to contain the teams role players. While Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have been good for the Grizzlies in both meetings, it has been the impact of the role players that has made the difference.
Additionally, in the last meeting it was Tony Allen who was the difference maker. Not only did Allen do a good job of containing James Harden, he also took advantage of the Rockets lacks defense with team high 22 points on a near-perfect 9/10 shooting.
For the Rockets to win today it will be a true test of their character. The odds are stacked against them with injuries and a tough schedule. However, champions are built through adversity and a win today would say a great deal about this team.
However, if the Rockets are unsuccessful, it shouldn’t be too disconcerting. The schedule finally eases up in February.
So no matter the result, the Rockets should be back to their winning ways in no time.
Things to watch
James Harden – the back-to-back king
James Harden is averaging 30 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists and 63% True Shooting on back-to-backs. The slight uptick from his season averages is impressive given the Rockets travel heavy schedule.
The return of Clint Capela
The Rockets have struggled in first quarters since Capelas injury, which could be related to the gravity he draws when diving to the rim. Capela draws defenive attention with the threat of pick and roll lobs and (alongside James Harden) is one of the key factors in getting shooters open. For that reason, the Rockets need Capela to return to form as soon as possible.
Capela only played 8 minutes in his first game back from injury. However, last night Capela put up 22 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes. The sooner he can get back to his best, the better it will be for the Rockets.
Can we contain their role players?
If Tony Allen, James Ennis, Troy Daniels or Vince Carter have another career night, it seems unlikely that the Rockets will be able to escape with the win.
Corey Brewer +/-
In the absence of Anderson, Brewer has filled the starting role and it hasn’t worked well for the Rockets. That’s putting it nicely.
One example: In the Rockets 19 point win over the Milwaulkee Bucks, Brewer was a -20. In that same game, Eric Gordon was a +38. That should tell you everything you need to know.
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