NBA Houston RocketsMemphis Grizzlies

Houston Rockets’ High-Scoring Attack Meets Stingy Memphis Grizzlies Defense

Houston Rockets' James Harden and Jeremy Lin

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA Today Sports

Two Western Conference playoff teams will meet at Toyota Center on Friday as the Memphis Grizzlies come to town to take on the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets have had a couple of days off to enjoy a playoff berth that was locked up Tuesday night, thanks to a fortuitous goaltending call on a James Harden 3-pointer as time expired. They won’t have much time to sit back and enjoy the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009 though, as Memphis brings a dangerous and physical defensive force to a game that may hold more meaning for the home team.

This will be a game decided by which team takes the other out of their natural flow and does a better job at dictating the tempo of the game.

The Rockets play at a blistering pace and lead the NBA in scoring with a league-high 106.2 points per game. This couldn’t be further from the style the Grizzlies like to play, with the league’s stingiest defense (89.5 points per game allowed) and certainly not a dynamic offensive threat at 93.6 points per game.

If the Rockets can keep the game at a break-neck pace and run the score up, they shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Grizzlies at home. The Grizzlies do a great job of dictating the tempo and knocking higher scoring foes out of rhythm, and if they keep the Rockets at a plodding and physical pace, it may be a long night for Houston on Friday.

While the Grizzlies’ playoff picture is all but locked up with a first round matchup running through Staples Center and the Los Angeles Clippers, there is still a great deal hanging in the balance for the Rockets. Houston is currently sitting in the dreaded seven-hole in the Western Conference Playoff picture, and a meeting with either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs is looming.

They are currently only a game back of the Golden State Warriors for the sixth spot, a position the team would love to occupy entering the playoffs. Overtaking the Warriors would likely ensure a first-round meeting with the Denver Nuggets, one which is much more winnable now with Danilo Gallinari done for the season with a torn ACL.

Friday’s game is certainly a contest of huge importance for the Rockets and if scorers Harden and Jeremy Lin have big nights against the imposing Memphis defense, the Rockets will cruise in Houston.


Jason Weingartner is an NBA Contributor for Follow him on twitter @JaWeingartner or add him to your network at Google.