New Rocket Josh Smith is uncertain to play tonight as his new team visits the Grizzlies with first place in the Southwest Division on the line.
The Rockets added Smith following his release from the Pistons on Monday. Smith was in the second year of a four-year, $54 million contract and he was averaging 13.1 points while shooting what would be a career-worst 39.1 percent, but he ranks fourth in the league at his position with 7.1 assists per 48 minutes to go with 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. Smith’s signing could be key for the Rockets as he will provide a big defensive presence down low alongside former AAU teammate and longtime friend Dwight Howard.
Houston already holds opponents to 96.3 points per game to rank among the stingiest teams in the NBA, just ahead of the Grizzlies’ mark of 97.0. The Rockets also post an opponent field-goal percentage of 43.1 and they force 16.5 turnovers per game, which doesn’t bode well for a Grizzlies team that’s averaging 93.0 points during a season-worst three-game losing streak. Two of those setbacks have come at home after opening the year 12-1.
The Grizzlies are coming off a surprising 97-91 loss to the Jazz on Monday in their final game before a three-day Christmas break. Mike Conley led all scorers with 28 points and Marc Gasol added 24 points and 12 rebounds, but the Grizzlies were outrebounded 49-34 and went 8 of 9 from the free-throw line to set new season-lows for makes and attempts.
Memphis has won seven of eight against Houston at home after cruising to a 119-93 victory on November 17 before the Rockets prevailed 105-96 on December 3. The Grizzlies could be without Zach Randolph (knee) and Tony Allen (eye).