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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets drives against Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies at the Toyota Center on December 22, 2012 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJune 26, 2016

Playoff positioning will be on the line Friday night in Houston when the Memphis Grizzlies (53-25) invade the Toyota Center to take on the Houston Rockets (44-34).

The Grizzlies are currently fifth in the Western Conference in a battle for home-court advantage with the Los Angeles Clippers.

It is a very similar situation as the two teams were in last year when the Grizzlies were the fourth seed and Clippers were fifth.

The Rockets are seventh in the Western Conference standings. They sit just one game behind the Golden State Warriors. If the season ended today, they would face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

Gaining the sixth spot would likely get them the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs. Both are formidable teams, so it is a matter of picking your poison there.

Houston is dealing with injuries that will have them at less than full strength, but reserves have stepped up of late.

Chandler Parsons may not be able to go in this game. He is still nursing a sore calf and per David Barron of the Houston Chronicle, Parsons is focusing on rehab to get him back in the lineup by the end of the season.

The Grizzlies are coming off a 94-75 win over the hapless Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday at home. Mike Conley had 20 points and seven assists to lead the team to victory. Zach Randolph had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Houston was also victorious in their last game. They fought off a strong effort from the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center, 101-98.

James Harden had a great game with 33 points, six rebounds and six assists. Omer Asik was a monster on the glass. He pulled down 22 rebounds to help the team win.

The Rockets were the beneficiaries of a bizarre but justified goaltending call on Harden's buzzer-beater at the end of regulation. Jermaine O'Neal inadvertently stuck his hand through the net as Harden's three-point shot was in the air.

The infraction was called and the Rockets won a tight one. It's been that kind of year for the Suns.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two Southwest division foes. The Grizzlies have had the upper hand thus far. They have taken two-of-three heading into Friday night's game.

The first meeting happened way back on Nov. 9 before the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, per ESPN.

Gay led the Grizzlies to a 93-85 win with 21 points. Randolph had a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Harden did not shoot the ball well that night.

He scored 18 points to lead the Rockets, but he made only four of 18 shots from the field.

He would be on his game for the second matchup on Dec. 22, though. Harden poured in 31 points as the Rockets blew the Grizzlies out, 121-96.

The team made 12 three-pointers in front of the Toyota Center crowd to run away from Memphis.

The last meeting took place on March 29. The Grizzlies used a very balanced attack to defeat the Rockets 103-94 in Memphis.

Randolph had another double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Mike Conley also contributed a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists.

They led a group of six Grizzlies with at least 10 points in the game.

Will the Grizzlies clinch the season series, or will the Rockets even things up?

Here's how you can watch.

 

When: Friday, April 12, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Toyota Center in Houston, TX

TV: NBA League Pass, CSN-Houston and SportSouth-Memphis

Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Pay Service)

 

Injuries

(per CBS Sports)

 

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Darrell Arthur, PF (Back) Questionable
  • Jerryd Bayless, PG (Knee) Questionable

Bayless has averaged 13 points per game for the Grizzlies in their two wins over the Rockets. If he is unable to play, the team would miss his scoring punch off the bench.

 

Houston Rockets

  • Carlos Delfino, SG (Illness) Questionable
  • Chandler Parsons, SF (Calf) Questionable


Probable Starters

 

Grizzlies

  • PF—Zach Randolph
  • SF—Tayshaun Prince
  • C—Marc Gasol
  • SG—Tony Allen
  • PG—Mike Conley, Jr.

 

Rockets

  • PF—Greg Smith
  • SF—Francisco Garcia
  • C—Omer Asik
  • SG—James Harden
  • PG—Jeremy Lin

 

Biggest Storylines

 

Do the Grizzlies Need Home-Court Advantage to Defeat the Clippers in the Playoffs?

Even though Memphis has the Rockets on Friday night in a game they need to win to hold their ground in the standings, Lionel Hollins' team has to be thinking about the Clippers to some degree. 

After losing to them in last year's playoffs, the Grizzlies probably want another shot at Lob City. It looks like they will get that chance, but will they hold the home-court advantage in that series?

Last year, the assumed advantage wasn't telling, as the Clippers came into the FedEx Forum and won the seventh and deciding game of the series.

The Grizzlies are sitting at 31-8 at home this season. The Clippers are a solid 31-9 at the Staples Center as a home team (they are 33-9 in the building if you count the two road wins over the LA Lakers).

Despite the two teams' solid play at home, their regular season series supports the notion that both teams can win on the other's home floor. The Grizzlies dropped their only home game to the Clippers this season.

The teams split the the two games at the Staples Center. They are set for what could be an exciting regular season finale in Memphis.

With the standings so close, this game could determine home-court advantage in the series, for whatever that's worth.

 

How Much Damage Can the Rockets Do in the Playoffs?

Houston is the type of team that can beat anyone on a given night because of their ability to shoot from deep.

No team has taken more threes this season and the Rockets make just under 37 percent of their attempts. Their issues come in when the shots aren't falling, and on defense.

Though they lead the league in scoring at 104.8 points per game, they are near the bottom in points allowed with 102.6.

As exciting as they are to watch, I don't see them being able to shoot a high enough percentage for an entire playoff series to knock off the Spurs or the Nuggets.

At some point you need to be able to get stops in the half-court set. The Rockets can't do that consistently against good teams.

 

Key Matchup: James Harden vs. Tony Allen

As Harden goes, so goes the Rockets this season. Though he's still averaging a healthy 23.5 points per game in losses, that number is down from the 27.7 he scores in wins. 

It's not just his points per game that tell the story, his overall production is down in Rockets losses. Check out the numbers, per BasketballReference.com.

Result FG% 3PT FG% FT% Assists per Game Rebounds per Game
Wins .478 .407 .881 6.2 5.0
Losses .396 .322 .831 5.4 4.6

This trend has held true in the head-to-head matchups with the Grizzlies this season. Harden is averaging just 12.5 points in the two losses this year. He had 31 in the Rockets' lone win.

Tony Allen must slow him and that work isn't just done on the defensive end. He must be aggressive on offense as well.

Allen doesn't possess the offensive skill set that Harden does, but he's athletic and explosive. Taking the ball to the basket will at least force Harden to expend some energy on defense.

The Rockets can't win unless Harden has a big game. Allen will be primarily charged with containing him. 

 

Prediction

The Grizzlies will take this one at home. It is hard to tell with the Rockets, though.

They could produce an insane shooting night that renders them unbeatable. But the Grizzlies are a solid defensive team and they will be even better on that end of the floor at home.

I predict they will win 105-100.

 

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