Rockets-Grizzlies Preview

After delivering stirring comebacks to extend their winning streaks, the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets each hope they've finally put their sluggish starts behind.

One of the Southwest Division rivals will be able to maintain momentum when the teams square off Tuesday night.

The inconsistent Rockets enter FedEx Forum having won three straight after a four-game skid, while the Grizzlies have won five of seven following a 3-6 stretch. Memphis (21-18) is taking advantage of a season-high six-game homestand in which it's won the first two tests without its starting backcourt of Mike Conley and Courtney Lee.

The Grizzlies recorded a sixth straight victory at home in thrilling fashion, rallying from a 21-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Boston 101-98 Sunday. They held the Celtics to 28.6 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, outrebounded them 35-14 in the second half and scored 14 points off 10 turnovers over the final two periods.

While it remains among the league's poorer offensive teams, Memphis continues to rely on its perennially strong defense. The Grizzlies rank near the top of the NBA with 16.9 turnovers forced and are yielding 92.9 points over their last seven.

"Our focus defensively has gotten much better the last three weeks," coach Dave Joerger said. "Guys are flying around and helping each other."

The Grizzlies have shut down high-scoring Houston (19-19) in winning two prior matchups this season, with the Rockets committing a combined 43 giveaways and making just 25.4 percent of 3-point attempts. Houston shot 37.8 percent in a 96-84 road loss on Nov. 20, its eighth defeat in its last 10 trips to Memphis.

Turnovers have been a season-long issue for the Rockets, whose 16.8 per game rank 29th in the NBA. They overcame 23 Sunday against Indiana, where they trailed by 12 midway through the fourth quarter before rallying for a 107-103 overtime win.

"We were fortunate (Sunday) to have a lot of turnovers and come up with the win," said Patrick Beverley, who matched a season high of 16 points. "Against Memphis, in Memphis, it won't be that easy. We have to value the ball."

Trevor Ariza sparked Sunday's comeback by scoring a season-high 24 points and holding Paul George in check much of the night. The defensive-minded forward hit three 3-pointers in the final 4:49 of regulation, the last tying the game at 93-all with 17.1 seconds left.

''He plays so hard no matter what," teammate James Harden said. "If the shots are going in or not, he still plays hard. He led the team in scoring after guarding a (tough) guy on defense - shows a lot of character about the guy.''

Ariza had 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Houston's last visit to Memphis but was held to eight on a 2-of-10 effort in a 102-93 home loss to the Grizzlies on Nov. 25, a game in which Harden finished scored 40.

Conley was a major factor in both wins over Houston, shooting 65.4 percent while amassing 45 points. He could miss a fourth straight game with a sore Achilles', however, although Lee (hip contusion) is expected to return from his two-game absence.

Mario Chalmers has helped offset Conley's loss by averaging 17.7 points over the three games, while Zach Randolph is averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds over his past four after posting 25 and 13 against Indiana.

Houston's Ty Lawson will serve the last of a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest in California last July.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.