Who would have thought that Monday’s meeting between the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies would be a contest between two 9-1 teams that are atop the Western Conference standings? The Grizz are a three-point favorite according to the NBA odds.
The Houston Rockets Can Win Because…
Their defense is ready to take on Memphis. The longstanding knock on the Grizzlies is and has been that they don’t have the perimeter shooting needed to balance out their defense and, more specifically, their interior game with power forward Zach Randolph, who averages 11.6 rebounds per game, and center Marc Gasol, who averages 18.5 points per game. Memphis has the tools and ingredients of a championship team within 10 to 12 feet of the basket, but the perimeter is where this team falls short, mostly on offense. This is an imbalanced team, and as the years have gone by, such a reality has not really changed. This season’s Memphis team reflects such a view, even though the Grizzlies are doing really well at 9-1.
Memphis is 21st in the NBA in scoring and assists, signs of a team that, as successful as it has been through 10 games, is just asking for a slump. The Grizzlies are going to cool off, and it’s just a matter of time before they do. They were fortunate to overcome a deficit of over 20 points against the Sacramento Kings last week. With Houston’s James Harden facing the Grizzlies, the Rockets have the kind of scorer who can score at least 25 points and make a difference in a generally low-scoring game. As long as Houston’s offense doesn’t collapse, the Rockets should be in good shape.
The Memphis Grizzlies Can Win Because…
They're playing a team which, for all of its talent on offense, is not playing really well in at that end of the court right now. Houston just got done with a bizarre game on Sunday night against Oklahoma City Thunder, the team without both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Houston limited Oklahoma City to under 30 percent field goal shooting, and just 16 percent on three-point shooting. The Rockets never allowed more than 19 points in a quarter, and they allowed just 14 points in two separate quarters. This is a game Houston should have won by at least 20 points. Instead, Houston didn’t seal the win until there were only 4.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Houston eked out a 69-65 win over a thin and underequipped opponent, the kind of game that beats a loss but still feels very unsatisfying. The Rockets shot only 29 percent from the field, made only 7 of 35 three-pointers, and missed 14 of 30 free throws. Houston played terribly on offense and is now having to play the back end of a back-to-back set against the best team in scoring defense in the league. Memphis allows the fewest points per game in the NBA, so the Grizzlies should be able to shut down the Rockets.
The Grizzlies play the best defense in the NBA right now – at least while the reconfigured Chicago Bulls try to settle into a defensive rhythm. When you factor that in with the Rockets being in a back-to-back situation, then that gives us a slight lean to the Rockets on the NBA odds. Beyond that, Houston has looked shaky in their last two games with a one-point home victory over the hapless Philadelphia 76ers and a four-point win over the injury-riddled Thunder. Take the Grizz with your NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: Memphis -3 at The Greek