NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Preview, Predictions, Betting Picks

James HardenThe 24-17 Memphis Grizzlies visit 31-10 Houston Rockets tonight in an entertaining matchup between two Western Conference playoff squads (8pm ET Friday). The two teams play very different styles of basketball, and this game should feature a major clash of styles.

While both squads are enjoying successful seasons, they are each coming off difficult losses. The Grizzlies’ was more explainable, as they lost to Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder 103-95 on Wednesday. However, Houston ended a nine-game winning streak by falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a score of 119-105 on the same day.

Both squads will look to get back on the winning side of things tonight. Houston will look to do so with its high-octane offense, and Memphis will want its stingy defense to set the tone.

Here we identify the main influences that could affect the outcome of this matchup and end with our betting predictions and picks.

Can Tony Allen Shut Down James Harden?

Aside from maybe Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, no team is more dependent on one player on the offensive end of the floor than the Rockets are with James Harden (pictured). Harden boasts impressive averages of 28.6 points and 11.8 assists per game.

The Beard’s load should be even heavier than a normal Friday night, since the status of sixth man Eric Gordon is still up in the air. Gordon has missed the Rockets’ last two games with a toe injury, and it is doubtful he will be 100 percent tonight, if he plays. Houston enjoys having Gordon coming off the bench to provide Harden with some ball-handling relief.

On the Grizzlies’ side, Tony Allen is enjoying a very solid year on both sides of the ball. His forte is still defense, where he leads all shooting guards in the real plus-minus stat.

During the first meeting of the season last month, Harden handed out 17 assists, but he also had just 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting and committed nine turnovers. The Grizzlies won that contest 115-109. If Allen has similar success tonight, Memphis should win again.

Which Team Will Dictate the Pace?

Houston and Memphis play very differently on the offensive end of the floor. The Rockets prefer scoring as quickly as possible, while the Grizzlies like running their sets to completion before getting a shot. The Rockets are shooting more threes per game than any other team in NBA history, and the Grizzlies are in the middle of the pack in shots attempted from downtown.

The Rockets use about six more possessions per game than the Grizzlies. Can Memphis get back in transition and prevent those open threes and layups from getting attempted? On the flip side, can the Rockets find creases in the Memphis transition defense to get easy points?

If the pace of tonight’s game is fast, Houston should win. If it’s slow, Memphis’ chances of success will get considerably higher.

Can Houston Take Care of the Ball?

The Rockets turn the ball over 15.8 times per game, which is more than all but two teams in the NBA. On the flip side, the Grizzlies force the most turnovers in the league from their opponents (15.2).

Houston kept its miscues under control in the first matchup between the two teams, giving the ball away only 14 times. But given both teams’ tendencies this season, that could change tonight.

The Grizzlies may not be a great fast-break squad that takes advantage of every turnover, but every turnover is a possession the Rockets’ high-powered offense doesn’t get a shot, which is big for Memphis’ stingy defense.

Our Preview’s Memphis Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets Betting Picks & Predictions

The Grizzlies aren’t likely to win this contest on the road, but they should keep it close. Between Houston missing Clint Capela and possibly Eric Gordon and the Grizzlies probably not missing anyone significant, Memphis will be competitive.

Also, this preview does feel like the Rockets have played a bit over their heads thus far in the season and could be moving toward some regression to the mean. The veteran Grizzlies could be the team to knock them off their perch, or at least make them sweat a bit tonight. So these are my picks and betting predictions:

  • Most of the leading American sportsbooks have the Rockets favored by seven points, but I think taking the Grizzlies +7pts @ -110 with either Bovada or BetOnline to cover the spread is the wise pick.
  • It’s looking like the most common over-under for this contest is 215pts to be scored. I think these two teams will meet in the middle in terms of pace, but that the Rockets’ defense might be a bit leaky with their depth being tested. Bet the over 215pts @ -110 with BetOnline.
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