After two miserable road losses to the Wizards and the Knicks, the Grizzlies make their return to the Grindhouse tonight, where they’ll be taking on the Houston Rockets. At 39-32, the Rockets are in the heat of the Western conference playoff race, and are currently trying to catch the Warriors for the 6-seed. they have a lot at stake, and they certainly won’t be going down easy tonight.
This game prevents us with a rather stark contrast in styles. The Grizzlies are known, for their slow, defensive, grind-it-out style of play, while the Rockets are the exact opposite, thriving on their fast-paced, high-scoring offense above all else. they key to success for the Grizzlies tonight will be forcing the Rockets out of their groove, and forcing them to play Grizzlies-style basketball. When the Rockets control the tempo of the game, they can look unstoppable, but if they are frustrated early, they usually end up having a lot of problems.
One important factor tonight will be whether or not the Grizzlies can contain James Harden. In his first season with the Rockets, Harden has proven that the potential he showed in Oklahoma City was real, and he has established himself as one of the best shooting guards in the league. While Harden is a solid shooter, what really sets him apart is his ability to drive to the hoop. He is absolutely relentless in that regard, and he’s arguably the best in the NBA at drawing fouls.
Tonight, however, Harden will certainly have his hands full when he’s forced to deal with the defensive beast known as Tony Allen. Allen’s best strength is his perimeter D, and if he is able to prevent Harden from forcing his way to the basket, it will really throw the Rockets out of their rhythm.
Meanwhile, it appears as though Marc Gasol will be playing once again tonight. This is to say that as of now, I have yet hear anything that says he won’t be in the lineup, but the Grizzlies can be prone to last-minute surprises when it comes to this sort of thing, so who knows. After a rough game against the Knicks, in which he scored a season-low three points, Zach Randolph will look to recover tonight, as he goes against rookie power forward Donatas Montejunas, a seven-footer, who has demonstrated some serious talent since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin has looked better and better after a rough start, as his scoring averaged has steadily increased over the past few months, and is now hovering around 13 points per game. Lin is capable of being a very explosive player, and if the Grizzlies take him lightly, he could easily exploit their defense, and drive to the hoop for some easy buckets.
The Grizzlies desperately need a win, both for the sake of team morale, and for the battle for home court. If they can control the tempo of the game, and stop Harden from having a huge night, there’s a good chance they’ll emerge victorious this evening.