The Memphis Grizzlies are having a sensational start to their season, winning four of their first fives games. Of those four wins, two have come against the two most heralded teams in their conference in the Golden State Warriors and the aforementioned Houston Rockets.
The fact is, they’re beating teams their way by forcing opponents into a dogfight which has allowed them to climb into the top ten in defensive rating (99.9). Thanks to the likes of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley they’ve been able to maintain a top ten true shooting percentage (55.7) to go along with their solid defense.
The Rockets have continued their form from last season and are already considered a legitimate contender out west.
While the Grizzlies bested them earlier in the week, it was by no means a blowout, ending with a scoreline of 98-90. Houston just couldn’t get its three-point shot going, only shooting a miserly 23.7% from the perimeter. They also struggled to take care of the ball, giving up 18 turnovers but it was at the free throw line where the game was won.
While James Harden is normally elite at getting to the charity stripe, he and the team were simply outmatched by the Grizzlies who earned a whopping 14 extra free throws.
Keys to the game
The three ball – It’s unlikely the Rockets have such a poor night from the perimeter again. Expect them to bring things back to their 2016/17 average where they shot a tad under 36%. In their loss Trevor Ariza went 0/4, P. J. Tucker went 0/6 and Harden went 2/8. Look for those numbers to improve second time around.
Turnovers – While the Rockets outscored the Grizzlies 22 to 6 off turnovers in their last game, whoever can take care of the ball best will go a long way to getting the win. Turnovers can deflate a team and mess with the momentum of an offense. Harden was the main culprit in their previous outing, turning the ball over a hefty seven times. Expect Coach D’Antoni to be on him to clean that up.
Tempo – Memphis were able to get the game on their own terms, forced Houston into making mistakes and didn’t allow them to get into their own rhythm. Whichever team can dictate the game early on and get into a groove offensively will go a long way to getting the win.
Matchup to watch
Clint Capela vs Marc Gasol – Capela is a star on the rise in Houston. His rebounding this year has been invaluable for the Rockets but against a seasoned veteran like Gasol in their first game, he was kept to a relatively meager six rebounds; a far cry from his 20 rebound performance against the Sixers a few days ago. Capela will need to be switched on both sides of the floor to stop one of the Grizzlies’ star players.
Houston Rockets projected starting lineup
PG – James Harden | SG – Eric Gordon | SF – Luc Mbah a Moute | PF – Ryan Anderson | C – Clint Capela
Memphis Grizzlies projected starting lineup
PG – Mike Conley | SG – Andrew Harrison | SF – James Ennis III | PF – Jarell Martin | C –Marc Gasol
James Harden has yet to post a triple double this season after having 22 last season. The Beard is due a dominant performance, watch out Memphis.
The Rockets are (7/10) favorites to take this game and with revenge on their mind those are pretty juicy odds. It’s not a sure thing, but Houston just has too much talent to bet against, even with the loss of Trevor Ariza to injury.
Houston will be fired up and won’t let Memphis have their way with them twice in a row. The Grizzlies will do everything they can to slow the game down but the talent of Houston will prove too much.
Expect Harden to lead the team in an offensive masterclass and takedown their division rivals.
Catch this one on local providers and league pass. Tip off is at 8pm ET at the FedExForum.
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