The Rockets have won the first three meetings between the Southwest Division rivals this season, including an 86-80 win in Memphis on Nov. 7. The Grizzlies swept the season series with Houston in 2005-06, but have had no success against fellow Southwest opponents this season, going a combined 0-10 against the Rockets, Dallas, New Orleans and San Antonio.
This is the start of a two-game road trip for the Rockets, who visit Dallas on Friday. These are the only two contests away from Houston for the team during an 11-game stretch. The Rockets (30-17) wrapped up a five-game homestand by defeating Minnesota 105-77 on Monday.
They begin a four-game homestand on Saturday.
Tracy McGrady scored 16 of his 32 points in the third quarter against the Timberwolves to help the Rockets finish 4-1 on their just-completed stretch of home games. Juwan Howard had 20 points and eight rebounds and Luther Head scored 20 off the bench for Houston, which has won five of its past six overall and became the sixth team in the Western Conference to reach 30 wins.
No Eastern Conference club has more than 28 victories.
“That’s the type of team we need to be, night in, night out,” McGrady said. “We’ve got to be one of those teams that understands how good we really could be. Tonight, it really showed.”
McGrady, who will start at guard in the All-Star Game, has topped 30 points 11 times since Yao Ming broke a bone in his right leg on Dec. 23. Thanks largely to McGrady’s efforts, the Rockets have gone 14-6 with their All-Star center on the sidelines.
McGrady scored 38 points in Houston’s last meeting with Memphis, a 111-109 Rockets victory at home on New Year’s Eve. He is averaging 22.4 points in 21 career games against the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies (12-36) look to avoid their third straight loss and salvage the end of a five-game homestand. Memphis has gone 1-3 so far, losing back-to-back games to Dallas and Indiana, and has dropped four of its last five games in all.
The Grizzlies were outrebounded 51-34 and tired down the stretch in a 116-110 loss to the Pacers on Saturday.
“We probably got a little tired, but it’s on us,” Grizzlies guard Mike Miller said. “We’ve got to condition ourselves to play this (up-tempo) style. That’s where we’ve had our problems. We’ve played this style for three quarters, but never four.”
Pau Gasol had 30 points for Memphis and Miller made six 3-pointers, finishing with 26 points, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Grizzlies - owners of the league’s worst record - to victory.
“Losing, period, is frustrating,” Miller said. “To lose a game down the stretch at home is frustrating. Those are the games that you have to win.”
Despite the home loss to the Rockets in November, the Grizzlies have won eight of the last 11 meetings between the teams in Memphis.