Grizzlies, without Conley, prepare for Rockets

The struggling Memphis Grizzlies will try to find a way to deal with a sizzling James Harden when they host the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

The Grizzlies were without star guard Mike Conley when they opened a four-game homestand with a 116-113 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

The loss was Memphis' third straight and sixth in its last eight games after a 5-1 start that included a 103-89 home win over the Rockets.

Conley, who has been bothered by pain in his Achilles, remains out indefinitely, creating an intriguing matchup of two physically similar guards: Harden and the Grizzlies' Tyreke Evans.

Harden against pretty much anybody is a mismatch these days. He is coming off a 48-point explosion Thursday night at Phoenix, a game in which the Rockets scored 90 points in the first half and finished with 21 3-pointers.

Harden had six of the 3s and 18 free throws in 18 attempts, helping the Rockets ease to the seventh win in their last eight games.

Harden, the league's leader scorer at 31.8 points per game, has averaged 40.2 points in his last six games.

The win at Phoenix also marked the return of Rockets newcomer Chris Paul, who was last seen struggling with a bruised left knee on opening night at Golden State.

He played 21 minutes after his 13-game layoff, contributing, according to coach Mike D'Antoni, more than just the 11 points and 10 assists on the score sheet.

"Everybody was psyched up to get Chris back," the coach said afterward. "Just one of those nights where we played well offensively."

Offense wasn't the Grizzlies' problem in their loss to the Pacers on Wednesday. They matched their season-high with 113 points, even without Conley, their floor leader and third-leading scorer.

One reason was the play of Evans, whose 18 points gave him double-figure scoring in 13 of 14 games this season, all off the bench.

Evans found himself running the point with the first unit much more than usual against the Pacers and responded with nine assists, three more than he'd had in any other game.

After Conley sat out for the second time this season, the Grizzlies pondered bringing him back for Saturday's game. But cooler heads prevailed and a decision to bench him indefinitely was announced Friday.

"We're going to get some different opinions on it and see if it's something that he is doing or that we're doing that we can do differently," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale reported Wednesday night.

"It's just been a very frustrating 12, 13 games for him and for all of us. He can't hide it. The guy is giving us everything he can, but he's doing it on one foot right now. We've got to figure something out with that to get him better and back to us as fast as possible."

The Rockets and Grizzlies already are meeting for the fourth time this season. The Grizzlies limited Harden to 20 points and just a pair of 3-pointers in the 103-89 win the last time the clubs met at Memphis on Oct. 28.
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