Rockets vs. Grizzlies
When/where: 7 p.m./Toyota Center
TV/radio: Root Sports/740-AM, 850-AM (Spanish)
1. The Grizzlies’ defense remains as strong as ever, ranking fourth in points allowed per possession, but Memphis has gotten better offensively with more reliable perimeter scoring to go with its strength inside. The Grizzlies rank eighth in points per possession while taking the second-lowest percentage of their shots inside the 3-point line.
2. The Grizzlies not only have the NBA’s best record in the 2014-15 season, they have the best record of 2014, going 51-17 this year and 47-15 since Marc Gasol returned from his injury Jan. 14, including wins in all three games against the Rockets.
3. While Zach Randolph can dominate at any time, the Grizzlies have shifted more of their offense from Randolph in the low post to Marc Gasol at the elbow. Gasol has scored at least 20 points in a game nine times in the Grizzlies first 17 games, one more than all of last season. His average of 20.1 points is by far a career-high.
1. As turnover-prone as the Rockets have been, their game in Memphis might have been the season’s worst. They had one more turnover in the loss to Golden State, also a blowout, but the game in Memphis came apart when with the Rockets holding a 15-13 lead midway through the first quarter, the Grizzlies rolled through a 25-3 run, most fueled by Rockets turnovers. The Rockets had 15 of their 21 turnovers that night in the first 18 minutes. Their 17.1 per game are the third-most in the NBA. The Grizzles force 15.5 per game, ninth most in the NBA.
2. James Harden has carried the Rockets through many of their short-handed games, especially offensively, but struggled badly in his matchup with Tony Allen in Memphis. Harden made just 1 of 8 shots, missing all four of his 3-pointers. He made just 30.3 percent of his shots and 15.4 percent of his 3s in three games against Memphis last season.
3. With Dwight Howard doubtful (Terrence Jones, Pat Beverley and Isaiah Canaan are out
) rookie Tarik Black is expected to start against his hometown team, likely matching up with Zach Randolph whom he considers mentor after their lockout-season workouts together. He and Donatas Motiejunas will have to go against a team third in scoring in the paint, with Kostas Papanikolaou coming off the bench as an undersized power forward against an oversized Memphis frontcourt.