Rockets-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

While the Memphis Grizzlies' success mainly has been the result of stellar defense, the Houston Rockets' explosive offense is a major reason they're in position to make their first playoff appearance in four seasons.

The Grizzlies, though, haven't been playing up to their standards on the defensive end lately, and they'll look to get back on track by winning a fifth straight home meeting with the Rockets on Friday night.

Memphis (47-24) sits in fifth place in the Western Conference, one game behind Denver for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason.

The Grizzlies have been struggling, dropping to 3-5 in their last eight after falling behind by as many as 30 points in a 108-101 loss at New York on Wednesday.

While Memphis ranks near the top of the league giving up an average of 90.0 points, it has allowed 107.0 per game over the last three.

"Obviously, it was a bad start, getting all the way down by 30 points," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We had to find a lineup that could both guard and score, but we just didn't have any margin for error."

There were a couple of bright spots, though, as Mike Conley scored 26 points and is averaging 21.0 over his last five. Jerryd Bayless continued his hot stretch off the bench by scoring 24 points, and he's averaging 19.9 over his last seven - more than double his season average of 8.4.

Marc Gasol also returned from a two-game absence due to an abdominal tear and said he plans to play through the injury as long as he can.

"If I can play, I will play," said Gasol, who scored 13 points. "That's the way it's always been with me and hopefully that's how it's always going to be."

None of the Grizzlies could prevent them from allowing a season-worst point total in a 121-96 loss to Houston in the most recent meeting Dec. 22. James Harden finished with 31 points while Jeremy Lin added 15 and 11 assists for the Rockets (39-32).

That type of offensive display has been common for the Rockets, who average 106.1 points - one-tenth behind league leader Oklahoma City.

Houston is seventh in the West, one game behind sixth-place Golden State and in position to qualify for its first postseason since 2008-09. It had a three-game winning streak snapped with Wednesday's 100-91 loss to Indiana that concluded a 5-2 homestand.

"One loss is one loss but if we learn from it, it can be a good thing for us," Lin said. "The key is not to compound one loss with another one."

The Rockets shot 38.6 percent overall and were behind by 16 points at the end of the first quarter. They've been held to fewer than 100 points in two consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 18-19.

"I think the starters should take some ownership and not allow teams to get out to leads like that because it is pretty much impossible to play back from that much down when you play a (good) team," said Chandler Parsons, who shot 5 of 14 and scored 11 points.

Houston has won 11 of 15 meetings with the Grizzlies, but the defeats have come in its last four visits to Memphis.

The Grizzlies held Harden to 4-of-18 shooting in a 93-85 victory Nov. 9.