NBA Picks for Rockets vs. Grizzlies

Jason Lake

Saturday, January 25, 2014 6:32 AM GMT

The Memphis Grizzlies took the first game of their home-and-home series with the Houston Rockets. Can they beat the NBA odds again at The Grindhouse? As long as we get to see their Johnson.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 24 inclusive:

53-40-1 ATS

13-10 Totals

Am I going to keep making Johnson-related puns? Of course, because I’m hopelessly immature. And also because James Johnson is the key to the bank for the Memphis Grizzlies. They beat the Houston Rockets 88-87 Friday night, cashing in as 5.5-point road dogs on the front end of their home-and-home series. I had the Rockets in this one, but I did say it was up to the Grizz to pull out their Johnson and use it. And so it came to pass: 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. Glue guy. Performance god.

We’re right back on the horse Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET) in Memphis, with the Grizzlies priced anywhere between –1.5 and +1 on the NBA lines as we go to press. The very early consensus reports are firmly on the Rockets to adjust themselves and lay the wood on Memphis. Ahem.

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Swagger Lee

Although the Rockets (29-16 SU, 22-21-2 ATS) are ahead on our consensus reports, sources in Vegas have the Grizzlies (21-20 SU, 18-22-1 ATS) getting the earliest of the early action – and that was before Friday’s game had even started. Sing along with me, folks: Early action is sharp action. And it’s not just because of Johnson. There’s another new guy in town, namely Courtney Lee, who scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting as he continues his hot play since coming over from the Boston Celtics. Memphis is 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS with Lee (18.8 PER in limited action) taking over for the injured Tony Allen (16.3 PER).

Yes, Courtney Lee. His reputation took a hit over the first five years of his NBA career, which were spent with four different teams. Turnovers have always been an issue, but Lee has a sweet 3-point stroke (42.9 percent this year), and he’s a solid teammate. Maybe his profile would be higher if had a more masculine first name. These things matter to people, believe it or not. We might have heard more about James Johnson by now if his name were, say, I.B. Bangin.

Dunkin’ Donatas

Meanwhile, down in the paint, Zach Randolph (15 points, eight rebounds) and Marc Gasol (nine points, seven rebounds) were able to keep Dwight Howard (11 points, 12 rebounds) largely at bay. The Rockets aren’t quite as beefy as they need to be without Greg Smith (14.0 PER), who\s day-to-day with lingering knee problems. Donatas Motiejunas (10.6 PER) is more of a stretch-big than an inside presence, and Houston is 4-2 SU and 2-4 ATS since the Lithuanian giant started getting regular minutes again.

Friday’s game wouldn’t have been nearly as close as it was without Chandler Parsons (16.8 PER) turning in the best game of his career. Parsons nailed 10 of his 14 trey attempts, all in the second half, setting both the NBA record for 3-pointers in a half and the team record for threes in regulation. “Chandler kept us in the game,” head coach Kevin McHale told the Associated Press afterward. “Otherwise, it would have been an 88-70 game.”

The Rockets did get some relief Friday when Terrence Jones (18.9 PER) returned to the starting lineup after missing a couple of games with a bruised thigh. Unfortunately, Jones was limited to nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. But once he gets back up to speed, Houston will be in much better position to take care of business down low. How quickly will that be? Hard to say. After what happened Friday, I’d prefer to fade the Rockets until Jones achieves lift-off.

NBA Pick: Take the Grizzlies +1 at Ladbrokes