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Grizzlies, Rockets both look to stay hot on Thursday night
By: Zach Cohen - StatFox
Published: 12/26/2013  at  6:13:00 AM
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Tip-off: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -7.5, Total: 198

The Grizzlies look to win their third straight game when they head to Houston Thursday night to take on the Rockets.

Memphis beat the Jazz 104-94 on Monday to give the team two straight win-and-covers, but this club is still 9-17-1 ATS (35%) for the season, which ties the Kings for the worst ATS mark in the NBA. Houston is also brimming with confidence after a huge 111-98 Christmas Day victory over the Spurs on the road, and is now 16-13-1 ATS (55%), which ranks 10th in the league. These teams met earlier in the season on Nov. 25 when the Rockets won on the road by a score of 93-86. Houston is 3-1 (SU and ATS) over Memphis when these two teams have met in Houston over the past three years, but overall in that time, the Grizzlies are 5-4 (SU and ATS) in the series. Eleven of the past 18 games (61%) in this series have gone Under the total. Memphis is 16-6 ATS (73%) in road games after covering in two of its past three games over the past two seasons, but the Rockets are 14-4 ATS (78%) after three straight games where they made 47%+ FG in this same timeframe. Both teams have negative trends too, as the Grizzlies are 0-7 ATS versus division opponents this season, but Houston is 8-28 ATS (22%) at home when playing its fifth game in seven days since 1996. PF Tayshaun Prince (knee) is doubtful to play for Memphis on Thursday, while the Rockets continue to be without both PG Patrick Beverley (hand) and PF Greg Smith (knee).

Which team will stay hot on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are sizzling on NBA Best Bets in December, going 63% ATS (50-29) including 75% ATS (24-8) since Dec. 16. During the month, StatFox Zach has an astronomical 88% ATS mark (14-2) and is currently 61% ATS (25-16) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 77% ATS (13-4) Best Bets record in December and is 56% ATS (23-18) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Gary is 56% ATS (9-7) in December Best Bets, and since Dec. 16, Gary and StatFox Brian are 5-2 ATS, while StatFox Scott is 3-2 ATS.

The Grizzlies have battled through a number of injuries this season, but they’re starting to rally a bit with two straight victories. Memphis’ offense is still pretty weak (94.0 PPG, 26th in NBA), but its defense has been what’s keeping the team competitive, allowing just 97.1 PPG (7th in NBA). PF Zach Randolph (16.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG) led the Grizzlies to their victory over Utah on Monday with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Over the past five games, Randolph is averaging 19.8 PPG and 12.4 RPG with four double-doubles. SF Mike Miller (7.1 PPG, 46% threes) hit all of his three-point attempts off the bench on Monday, while scoring 15 points in just 18 minutes. He will need to be on his game against the Rockets, who love to get up and down the court and shoot three-balls. PG Mike Conley (17.3 PPG, 6.3 APG) has shot horribly (6-for-29, 21%) in two games since returning from a two-game absence because of a thigh contusion. Although Memphis has been winning since his return, Conley must play better if the Grizzlies are going to turn it around and get back into playoff contention. It’s crucial that Conley comes away from his matchup with Jeremy Lin victorious. C Kosta Koufos (7.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG) must also do everything he can to at least contain Rockets star C Dwight Howard.

Houston went on the road for its Christmas Day game, and blew out San Antonio 111-98. C Dwight Howard (18.6 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.9 BPG) had a remarkable performance for Houston with 15 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. Howard will have a big mismatch against Kosta Koufos and the Grizzlies, who he scored 15 points with seven rebounds in just 27 minutes when he faced them last month. Last season when he had to deal with defensive specialist C Marc Gasol, who remains out indefinitely with a knee injury, Howard averaged a mere 6.0 PPG (28% FG) and 5.3 RPG in three meetings. After missing two games with an injured ankle, SG James Harden (24.0 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.6 RPG) also had a huge night for the Rockets on Monday with 28 points (11-of-16 FG), six rebounds and six assists. This dynamic duo is a big reason why the Rockets have scored 106.5 PPG (2nd in NBA) with 45.6 RPG (6th in league) this season. But on defense, they are giving up 102.3 PPG (24th in NBA). PF Terrence Jones (9.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG) came up with a huge game against San Antonio as well with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. He has continued to improve for Houston all season and is becoming a great complement to Howard at the power forward position. PG Jeremy Lin (14.6 PPG, 4.3 APG) has also played well in his two games since returning from a back injury with 16.5 PPG on 55% FG. He had 13 points, eight assists and two blocks in Monday's win, and without Patrick Beverley, Lin will need to play bigger minutes and be more effective defensively if head coach Kevin McHale is going to get the same production out of his team’s point guard position.

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