The 12-4 Houston Rockets and 7-7 Memphis Grizzlies meet up on today for what will already be their fourth and final matchup of the 2017-18 regular season (8pm ET Saturday).
The Grizzlies hold a 2-1 edge in the season series, but the Rockets won the most recent contest by a 15-point margin last Saturday. Also, Memphis recently learned that point guard Mike Conley is out indefinitely with an Achilles injury, while Rockets point guard Chris Paul just returned to the lineup on Thursday following a knee injury. Both guys are All-Star caliber players.
Can Houston salvage a split of the season series on Saturday? Or will Memphis come up with an upset despite being shorthanded? A few storylines will take center stage tonight. Let’s consider those before we make our preview’s betting predictions and picks for how this game will turn out.
Can Someone on the Grizzlies Take James Harden Out of His Groove?
Harden has been an absolute cheat code in his last six games. His averages in that stretch are 40.2 points and 11.2 assists per contest with an amazing 68.8 true shooting percentage. He’s gotten to the free-throw line at will and his three-point shot is falling for him.
Memphis limited Harden very well in the first two matchups of this season series, keeping him to 22 and 20 points in the contests, respectively. The Rockets guard also failed to tally more than eight assists in either of the games, despite his average being more than 10 per contest. However, the bearded superstar exploded for 38 points in the third matchup.
The Grizzlies need to find the defensive formula they achieved in the first two matchups. That could mean some sort of double-teaming scheme or just really sound individual defense from someone like Dillon Brooks or James Ennis III.
One other factor on Houston’s own end that could limit Harden is the reintegration of Chris Paul. Both players like the ball a lot and slightly fewer touches for Harden could mess with his rhythm.
Can Memphis Control the Pace Of This Game Without Mike Conley?
The two Memphis wins followed a similar script, pace-wise. The Grizzlies kept the Rockets to just 95 offensive possessions or fewer in both contests, which are still Houston’s two slowest-paced games of the season.
In the Rockets’ lone win, though, there were 101 possessions. That’s a pace that favors Houston’s explosive transition offense and hurts the Grizzlies, who have a very strong half-court defense.
Conley’s steady ball-handling and his initiation of the offense and defensive effort is a big part of the Grizzlies’ deliberate pace. He keeps turnovers low, stays patient on offense and helps make the transition defense solid by getting back quickly.
Mario Chalmers and the other primary ball-handlers with Memphis can’t get caught up in a track meet sort of game with Houston.
Who Wins Sixth Man Battle Between Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans?
Both Gordon and Evans were among the brightest young talents in the NBA around seven years ago before their careers took a turn for the worse. Gordon suffered significant injuries, and Evans had more minor injuries combined with a skill set that wouldn’t adjust to the NBA’s changing trends. This year, both players are killing it.
Gordon is usually the sixth man for Houston, but he started for the Rockets while Chris Paul was out. He is now averaging 21.3 points and 3 assists per game for the season. Evans, meanwhile, has stayed on the bench all year, but is still putting up 18.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest on excellent efficiency.
Each player will get significant minutes to prove their offensive brilliance in this contest, possibly guarding each other at some points.
Our Preview’s Houston Rockets vs. Memphis Grizzlies Betting Picks & Predictions
It’s a big adjustment to lose a point guard as good as Mike Conley. He handles the ball a lot and is key to steadying the offense and defense. Also, Harden and the Rockets are in an offensive zone right now. Memphis’ defense has cooled off considerably since the start of the year, so I don’t see the squad putting up too much of a fight.
- Generally, with most top rated sportsbooks for American residents, the Rockets are 7.5pts favorites and we saw 8pts in one place. The current best odds of Rockets -7.5pts @ -110 are with Bovada, 5Dimes or BetOnline.
- The total for the over/under nearly everywhere is 214.5pts, though it is 214pts in a place. The Rockets have gone way over that number in most of their recent games, while the Grizzlies have been just a bit under. Bet on the over 214pts @ best betting odds of -110 with BetOnline.