Upbeat Rockets visit Grizzlies

(SportsNetwork.com) - The new-look Houston Rockets will have a tough go of it on Friday night when they invade FedExForum to take on their Southwest Division rivals, the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Rockets emerged victorious in the Josh Smith sweepstakes. The forward, released on Monday by the Detroit Pistons, decided on the Rockets, although the signing isn't official.

"I think I can add to their toughness," Smith told Houston's Fox 26 Sports. "I think I can add to their versatility at the four position, being able to pass the basketball and score the ball down low. Just add another basketball IQ, which will help when we make it to the postseason."

Also, the Rockets added Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved in recent trades. Both played in Monday's 110-95 home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

After losing two straight, James Harden carried the Rockets with 44 points.

The Blazers upended the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last season, but without LaMarcus Aldridge, who sat with an illness, Portland had no one step up to match Harden's production.

Harden only played 32 minutes, shot 14-of-26 from the field and only missed one of his 13 free throw attempts to tie his season-best point total. He added seven assists and five steals for good measure.

"I was aggressive," Harden said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me and putting me in a position to be successful."

Dwight Howard recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while newly acquired Brewer donated 12 points off the bench for Houston.

Brewer, brought in from Minnesota in a three-team deal last Friday, also recorded five steals and help force Portland into 23 turnovers.

The Grizzlies are in the midst of a three-game losing streak for the first time in over a year. They've even lost two straight at home.

Memphis fell to the Utah Jazz at FedExForum, 97-91, on Monday night.

The Grizzlies were without top rebounder Zach Randolph for a second consecutive game due to a swollen knee, while defensive stopper Tony Allen missed his fourth in a row with an eye abrasion.

"They're such a big part of our team," said Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. "For them to be missing, we've kind of dialed some stuff back and changed some things up and it's been a little bit of a learning process for different guys."

Both Randolph and Allen are listed as questionable for Friday.

Conley and Marc Gasol did their best to carry the load for the short-handed Grizzlies, with the former netting 28 points and Gasol tallying 24 along with 12 rebounds. However, Memphis shot just 32 percent for the fourth quarter as the Jazz drew clear down the stretch.

These teams have met twice already this season and the home team has held serve on both occasions.

The Grizzlies have won three of the last four matchups and are 7-1 in their last eight as the host in this series.