Last night the Grizzlies played the Houston Rockets.
Tonight, the Grizzlies play the Houston Rockets.
It's only happened one other time since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis (a 2006 home-and-home against the Dallas Mavericks) but the Griz find themselves in the midst of a divisional home-and-home matchup, and it came at a point where the Grizzlies were 0-10 against Southwest Division opponents, including a fart-worthy performance on MLK Day against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Grizzlies are now 1-10 (21-20 overall), with an opportunity to improve to 2-10 and 2 games over .500 tonight, after defeating the Rockets in Houston last night 88-87.
Here are some things the Grizzlies will have to do tonight if they want to beat the Rockets twice in a row:
• Defend the three point shot better. The Rockets attempted 34 threes last night, and the Grizzlies were fortunate that they couldn't hit the broad side of Jake Tsakalidis in the first half. In the second half, Chandler Parsons heated up (like, really heated up) and made ten threes in a row—almost enough for Houston to steal the game away. If they'd connected on more wide open threes in the first half, the Grizzlies would've been playing from behind instead of from ahead. They have to do a better job of not helping off three-point shooters. (Haven't I been saying that since last year's Conference Finals?)
• Play solid basketball for 48 minutes. The Grizzlies had some stretches last night—especially the beginning of the third quarter, and a couple of spots in the early fourth where everyone forgot what the plays were—where they just weren't executing. It's the same thing we've said all year, but last night, in a critical spot, it almost cost them the game—several possessions ended in shot clock violations or other turnovers, and others ended in jacked-up threes with a second or two on the clock. Not smart basketball, and something they're going to have to watch out for tonight.
• I know Dave Joerger is trying to figure out the rotations still, but... I think I'm done with the "James Johnson and Tayshaun Prince as the 2 and 3" lineups. Last night saw Calathes-Prince-Johnson-Davis-Gasol together in the first quarter, and... needless to say, they didn't know what to do with each other. They haven't played much together this season, which explains the unfamiliarity, but maybe there's a reason they haven't played together (beyond the Gasol injury). I get that Johnson and Prince are tall. That doesn't mean they're secret weapons to be deployed in bizarre anti-smallball lineups when those lineups cause what little offensive flow the Grizzlies have to evaporate like spilled lighter fluid.
• Keep taking the ball inside. Late in last night's game, Zach Randolph got going and got Dwight Howard into foul trouble. That worked. When the Grizzlies got away from that attack down the stretch, the Rockets started closing the gap (and Brevin Knight got really frustrated on the broadcast). When the inside game is working late in a game like that, it has to remain the Grizzlies' first option. Why go away from something that's clearly working with such an important game on the line?
Bottom line is this: it's going to be hard for the Grizzlies to beat the Rockets two nights in a row. The Rockets are a good team. The upside is that tonight, both teams are on the second night of a back to back and the Grizzlies are at home. I expect tonight to be another close one, but if the Grizzlies can contain the Rockets' outside shooting (and keep James Harden from shooting 25 free throws) I think they can pull off the home-and-home sweep.