PREVIEW: Grizzlies at Rockets- March 1

Nov 28, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) drives at Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) in the third quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Grizzlies at Rockets- March 1

The Rockets will try to avoid their 11th straight loss when they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Toyota Center on Wednesday night. A night after Jalen Green returned to the floor from the groin strain he suffered in Oklahoma City, Kevin Porter Jr. is expected to make his return after missing the last 20 games with a left toe injury. The Rockets went 3-17 without Porter, and while their offensive rating improved slightly over that span, their defensive efficiency fell off a cliff. Opponents scored 122.9 points per 100 possessions in the 20 games he missed, up from 116.1 before the injury.

Eye on the Grizzlies

Record: 37-23 (2nd in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 113.5 (17th)

Defensive rating (rank): 109.4 (2nd)

Memphis has recovered from losing 8-of-9 last month and arrive in Houston having won 5-of-7, including Tuesday’s 121-109 win over the Lakers. Memphis’ offense has been quite average over this stretch, but its defense has stifled opponents, allowing a league-best 103.8 points per 100 possessions, almost six points better than its season number. Jaren Jackson Jr’s 16 points and 7 rebounds per game don’t jump off the page, but the Grizzlies All-Star has played at an elite level on the defensive end of the floor, which has him as a leading candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year.

Matchup to watch: Jalen Green vs. Ja Morant

When Morant scored 49 points against the Rockets in October, Green went shot-for-shot with him until the fourth quarter. Green finished with 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting that night, and he said after the game he thought he was on the same level as the two-time All-Star.

“He’s in year four, right? I’m year two, and I feel like I can compete with anybody out there.”

Green hasn’t had the season many expected, especially after that game, but in his return from the groin injury that cost him two games, Green scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting in just 19 minutes. He played his best basketball after the All-Star Break as a rookie, and the hope is that Tuesday’s game can start him in that same direction for the final 22 games of this season.

What I’m watching for

Wednesday will be Kevin Porter Jr’s first game since Jan. 11, and while he certainly has flaws, his importance to the team was illustrated by his absence over the last 20 games. They missed his shooting, they missed his playmaking, they missed his ability to get downhill and attack the rim, and they even missed his defense. Porter catches a lot of heat from fans and media, especially those who aren’t around the Rockets on a regular basis, but an argument can be made that he’s been their best player this season; he’s just asked to do way too much.

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