Mar 22, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) reacts with Memphis Grizzlies guard Luke Kennard (10) after a basket during the first half against the Houston Rockets at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
PREVIEW: Rockets at Grizzlies- March 24
The Rockets will play the second game of their five-game road trip when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night in a rematch of Wednesday’s 130-125 loss. Jalen Green scored 32 points for the Rockets, while K.J. Martin scored a career-high 31, but the Rockets had no answers for Grizzlies All-Star Jaren Jackson Jr., who scored a season-high 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting.
Eye on the Grizzlies
Record: 45-27 (2nd in Western Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 114.3 (T-12th)
Defensive rating (rank): 110.2 (3rd)
The Grizzlies enter Friday’s game having won 7-of-8 and four in a row. Ja Morant returned from his eight-game suspension and scored 17 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Morant will likely come off the bench again on Friday, but the Grizzlies will get Dillon Brooks back after he was suspended for Wednesday’s game for picking up his 18th technical foul of the season. With 10 games to play, Memphis sits second in the Western Conference, two games up on third place Sacramento and 3.5 games back of top seed Denver.
Matchup to watch: Rockets frontcourt vs. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jackson dominated the Rockets on the defensive end of the floor when he blocked five shots on March 1 at Toyota Center, but while he blocked two shots on Wednesday night, Jackson did most of his damage on the offensive end of the floor. The Grizzlies All-Star finished with a season-high 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting, and he attempted a season-high 11 free throws. Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Jabari Smith Jr. were usually matched up against him, but he torched all three and fouled Sengun and Garuba out of the game. With Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams unavailable due to injury, the Grizzlies opted to play Jackson at center a good portion of the game, and the Rockets must play physical with him, but do so without fouling.
What I’m watching for
Ja Morant played half the game on Wednesday in his return, and the Rockets won the minutes he was on the bench, outscoring the Grizzlies by six in the 24 minutes he was off the floor, but they were outscored by 11 in the 24 minutes Morant played, which was the difference in a five-point game. The Grizzlies guard finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals while being allowed to play the game on his terms. Morant will likely play more than the 24 minutes of action he saw on Wednesday. Memphis is plus-49 in 82 minutes with Morant on the floor against the Rockets this season and minus-23 in the 62 minutes he hasn’t played. The Rockets don’t need to win the Morant minutes on Friday, but they need to play the Grizzlies much closer than they have through the first three meetings this season.