Grizzlies-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies' starters got a nice break heading into their upcoming back-to-back set of games.

That's probably an even bigger benefit with a visit to Houston on tap.

Memphis continues its push for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason Friday night when the playoff-bound Rockets go for a 14th straight home win in this series.

With Mike Conley the lone starter in the game, Jon Leuer, Quincy Pondexter, Austin Daye and Ed Davis keyed a 19-6 fourth-quarter surge in a 94-75 win over Charlotte on Tuesday. Leuer finished with a season-best 11 points, Daye added 10 with seven rebounds and Pondexter and Davis each scored eight as Memphis (53-25) moved a franchise-best 28 games above .500.

"It just shows the depth of our team - on any given night, someone can come out and be heroic," guard Tony Allen said. "... that was a big lift for our starters, you know, for our bodies, just sitting in that fourth quarter, knowing we have a back-to-back coming up."

The Grizzlies, one game behind third-seeded Denver (54-24) for home court in the first round, host the Pacific Division champion Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 4 seed, on Saturday.

Memphis, the league leader in scoring defense at 89.5 points per game, has given up 84.9 during a 6-1 run that started with a 103-94 home win over the Rockets (44-34) on March 29.

The Grizzlies, though, were perhaps at their worst at the defensive end in a 121-96 loss at Houston on Dec. 22, as they allowed their highest point total in two seasons.

That game tied for Memphis' most lopsided defeat in its 13-game losing streak at Houston that started Nov. 25, 2006.

The Rockets, among the NBA leaders with 106.2 points per game, have won 14 of 17 at home and five of six overall. They'll try to split this series after clinching their first playoff berth since 2008-09 on Tuesday.

After defeating Phoenix 101-98 on a game-ending goaltending call on James Harden's 3-point attempt, Houston earned a postseason berth later that night when Utah fell to Oklahoma City.

"It's a great accomplishment for us,'' Harden said. "For our first year together, it's a pretty good thing.''

The Rockets, though, can't slow down if they want to catch sixth-place Golden State - 3-1 against Houston - and avoid a possible first-round matchup with the Thunder or San Antonio. If Houston does earn the sixth spot, it could open against Memphis.

The Rockets could be without Chandler Parsons, their second-leading scorer, for a fourth consecutive game Friday, while Carlos Delfino is questionable due to flu-like symptoms after a four-game absence.

It's uncertain if Darrell Arthur or Jerryd Bayless will return for Memphis after both missed the last two games.

The Grizzlies can win the season series against Houston for the first time since sweeping it in 2005-06.

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