Rival Rockets, Grizzlies clash in Memphis

Two Southwest Division rivals, both seemingly headed to the playoffs, will try to put ugly losses behind them on Friday night when the Memphis Grizzlies host the Houston Rockets.

The Grizzlies, who have clinched a postseason berth, are currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference. They are a game behind the Denver Nuggets for fourth and 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for third.

The Rockets are seventh in the Western Conference, but just a game shy of the Golden State Warriors in sixth. Houston is three games in front of the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently eighth.

The Grizzlies have lost two in a row and three out of four. The most recent setbacks both came on the road when they fell to the Washington Wizards on Monday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies welcomed back starting center Marc Gasol, who missed two games with an abdominal tear. Memphis played horribly early and fell behind by as many as 30.

Memphis clawed back and made it a game. They lost 108-101 to make it respectable in the end.

"Obviously, it was a bad start, getting all the way down by 30 points," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "I'm proud of our guys, the way that they showed character and fought back."

Mike Conley led the way for Memphis with 26 points and Jerryd Bayless added 24 points off the bench. Tony Allen netted 18 and Gasol finished with 13 in his return.

Starting forwards Tayshaun Prince and Zach Randolph combined for eight points.

The Rockets lost to the visiting Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, 100-91. It was a battle of the NBA's best defensive team, in terms of opponents' scoring, against the NBA's second-best offensive team.

Defense won.

"We got way down early and it just didn't seem like we had any zip or any spunk to start the game," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "We were lagging and, again, we just never got a rhythm that made for a funky game."

The Rockets, who average about 106 ppg, only scored 19 points in the first quarter and were down 16.

Houston was led by James Harden, who netted 22 points. Greg Smith scored 18 in a reserve role and Chandler Parsons and Thomas Robinson both scored in double figures.

The Rockets shot 38 percent from the field for the night.

The two teams have split their last six meetings, including both this season. The Grizzlies have won four in a row on their own turf in this series.