The 18-6 Memphis Grizzlies have won four straight games to move back into first place in the Southwest Division ahead of the San Antonio Spurs by percentage points. The Grizzlies will try to keep their winning streak going as they travel to the 13-12 Houston Rockets Saturday night. This is the last game for the Grizzlies before Christmas.
The Grizzlies, coached by Lionel Hollins, had a tough game last night in Memphis against the Dallas Mavericks. Despite having double digit leads several times, Memphis could never put the Mavericks away. As late as 2 minutes to go in the game, Dallas had pulled to within 5 points, but the Grizzlies pulled away for the 92-82 win.
Houston has won 4 of their last 5 games and 2 in a row under coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets have played 5 straight games against Eastern Conference teams the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, New york Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers. The only loss in those games came at Toronto 103-96. The Rockets won at the Knicks 109-96 and at home against the 76ers Wednesday night. Houston is 5 1/2 games behind Memphis in the division, and would currently make the playoffs as the #7 seed.
The Grizzlies beat the Rockets 93-85 early in the season November 9 in Memphis. However, Memphis hasn’t won in Houston since April 2006, a stretch of 12 games. The two two teams won’t play again until March 29 in Memphis, and again in Houston on April 12.
Memphis is outscoring teams 96-89 this season. They lead the league in points allowed and are #18 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.6% from the field and 36.2% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #20 in field goal percentage and #11 in three point shooting. Memphis is #3 in the league in free throw shooting at 80.3% from the line. The Grizzlies average 43.4 rebounds per game and give up 39.5. Memphis is #2 in rebounds allowed and #10 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 42.8% from the field and 33.1% from 3 point range. Memphis is in the top 5 in the league in both categories. The Grizzlies average 21 assists, 9.5 steals, 5.6 blocks and 15.2 turnovers a game.
Small forward Rudy Gay averages 18.7 points per game, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block a game. Forward Zach Randolph averages 17.1 points, 12.9 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.2 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding. Center Marc Gasol averages 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game to lead the team. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 2.4 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Guard Tony Allen, forward Marreese Speights, Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, Guard Wayne Ellington and forward Darrell Arthur make up the rest of the rotation. Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league.
Houston is outscoring teams 105-104 this season. Houston is second in the league in scoring but 29th in points allowed. The Rockets are shooting 44.5% from the field and 35.8% from 3 point range. Houston makes 77.2% of their free throws. The Rockets average 44 rebounds a game and give up 43.2. Houston is #6 in rebounding. Rocket opponents are shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.1% from 3 point range. Houston averages 22.2 assists, 8.5 steals, 4.4 blocks, and 16.2 turnovers a game.
Guard James Harden averages 25.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Harden is 4th in scoring in the league. Houston is 6-1 when he scores over 30 points. Forward Chandler Parsons averages 15 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Forward Patrick Patterson averages 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. He is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Point guard Jeremy Lin averages 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1,8 steals a game. Center Omer Asik averages 10.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Forward Marcus Morris averages 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. Morris will start in Patterson’s place until he gets healthy. The rest of the rotation includes forwards Carlos Delfino and Greg Smith, and guards Toney Douglas and Daequan Cook. Forward Terrance Jones and center Cole Aldrich could see some more minutes without Patterson. Rookie forward Royce White has missed the entire season because of his crippling fear of flying.
The Toyota Center in Houston has been a house of horrors recently for the Memphis Grizzlies. In order to break their long losing streak in Houston, the Grizzlies must contain Harden. Tony Allen will guard him. In the past two games, Allen has held Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis to 4 points and Dallas’s O.J. Mayo to 10 points. Both are very talented but neither is explosive as Harden. Houston will want to play this game in the high 90’s or even the 100’s, while Memphis wants to keep it in the low 90’s or even the 80’s. Whichever team controls the tempo has a very good shot of winning. I say the Grizzlies do and win a close game to snap their losing streak in Space City.