Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol will be out indefinitely with a sprained MCL as the Rockets travel to Memphis. This will provide more opportunity for the Rockets to get a win on the road against a probable playoff team from the West. The Grizzlies will miss his defense, and his 16 points and 7 rebounds a game. This will allow more space for the Rockets offense to take it to the hole and create opportunities for Howard in the post.
James Harden is day to day and is expected to miss his second game in a row with a sore left foot. Supposedly this injury has been bothering Harden for weeks and he has already missed two games due to the injury. His foot may be impacting Harden more than he has let on and many observers suspect this injury has been the cause of Harden’s slow start. He’s sixth in the league in scoring, but hasn’t been the game changer that he was last year. The Rockets are 1 -1 with Harden on the bench this year.
Can the Rockets guards play some defense against Memphis? The Rockets are currently 29th in the league in points allowed per game. Mike Conley is going to be a handful for any one of the Rockets guards. He can light it up and is shooting .516 on the season from the field. Brooks will see significant time if Harden doesn’t play and his defense will be critical. If Brooks can light it up from behind the arc like the last game, you can expect to see his playing time increase.
Lin bounced back from his worst outing with a solid game against the Timberwolves with 19 points in 39 minutes. He’s started six games this year, facilitates well, and is often in at the end of games. His chemistry with the starters is solid and he’ll need to have another good outing to beat Memphis on the road.
Terrence Jones is the man, can he keep it up? He’s hitting threes, rebounding, dribbling, passing, blocking shots and working hard. He’s got work to do on his defense (what Rocket doesn’t, except maybe Howard), but this guy is an amazing addition to the rotation. Jones’ skill set and energy are what the Rockets have been looking for in their quest for a PF. If he can maintain this pace and continue to grow, the sky is the limit. It’ll be a big challenge in Memphis going up against Zach Randolph, who is a beast and is averaging 16.5 and 9.5 boards a game.
Fourth quarter letdowns have dominated the storylines this year, no lead is safe with the Rockets defense. When they were up by 12 with about a minute and a half left in the game against the Wolves, it was hard to feel comfortable as they’ve given up so many double digit leads. Howard is talking about players needing to ask out if they need a blow, instead of waiting for McHale’s rotation. The Grizzlies are only averaging 94 a game, so the pace should slow down from previous games.
Turnovers remain a factor for the Rockets, they give up a league worst 19.1 per game. Harden is worst in the league at 4.3 a game, Lin is near the bottom at 3.2 and Howard is right behind at 3.1 per. This is one of the main reasons so many games are staying close.
Asik looked good on Saturday and got in the rotation for 13 minutes and got 8 boards. He was really good at fighting off Love and Pekovich for rebounds. He looked more solid than Howard did in that regard. His plus minus was a +8. Having his presence in the middle when Howard is out is a valuable asset. It’s critical that he maintain his standing with McHale and provides solid defensive and rebounding presence when he gets minutes.