Grizzlies-Rockets Preview

JEFF MEZYDLO
The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies appear to be back on track after a recent rough stretch. However, it remains to be seen if they've improved enough to end their struggles in Houston.

Beginning a stretch of five games in six days, the Grizzlies look for a third straight victory while trying to snap an 11-game road skid against the banged-up Rockets on Friday night.

Memphis (27-21) avoided a winless four-game road trip by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 102-96 at Staples Center on Sunday. Without All-Star Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies followed that with a 93-86 home win over Minnesota on Tuesday to post consecutive victories for the first time since a five-game winning streak Feb. 21-March 7.

Rudy Gay had 21 points, Marreese Speights scored 18 and Dante Cunningham added 13 with 14 rebounds in place of Gasol, who missed his first game of the season with a sore right ankle.

"That's why they have 12 players on the roster," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "I just told our guys you can't think you are not going to play. Everybody is important for the team. Everyone has a role, and there is a time that you have to step up."

With Gasol expected back on the floor Friday, the Grizzlies likely need a solid collective effort to end their lengthy drought in Houston.

"That's the kind of focus we need from everybody," said point guard Mike Conley, who also is expected to play after he twisted his ankle against the Timberwolves.

Memphis has averaged 88.4 points on 41.3 percent shooting during the 11-game skid in Houston that dates to a 93-81 victory April 15, 2006, well off their averages of 95.2 points and 44.9 percent shooting this season. The Grizzlies won the first two meetings with the Rockets, at home, by a combined 30 points before falling 97-93 at Houston on Feb. 20.

That road skid is currently the Grizzlies' longest such losing stretch against any opponent. It's also Houston's longest active winning streak against a team.

After totaling 38 points in the first two against the Rockets, Gasol was held to 11 at Houston. The fourth-year forward is averaging a career-high 15.5 points, but he's scored 14 on 7-of-21 shooting in his last two contests overall.

Gay has scored 43 points in the last two games against the Rockets (27-24).

Houston lost for the second time in three games, 90-81 at Dallas on Tuesday. Luis Scola had 22 points with eight rebounds, but the Rockets shot 41.8 percent and were unable to hold a 30-19 first-quarter lead while playing for the third time in four days.

"We got a little bit tired,'' coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't have that zip we needed. ... The game was up for grabs in the third quarter, but we didn't have any rhythm offensively.

"We need to play with thrust offensively all the time; we can't be a walk it up team."

The Rockets are trying their best to be an up-tempo team despite having Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry - their leading and third-leading scorers, respectively, sidelined by injuries. While Lowry will miss a 12th straight game with a bacterial infection, Martin is likely to sit out his 10th in a row because of a shoulder injury.

Scola has stepped up in their absences, averaging 19.9 points in the last 10 games. However, he's totaled 23 in the last three versus Memphis.