Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 4/10/13
It’s not every day the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies make national headlines, but when the two postseason contenders collide with playoff positioning on the line, people take notice. The Grizz may have higher NBA odds to win the championship outright, sure, but then there’s James Harden. In his first year with the club, Harden has emerged as the superstar Oklahoma City Thunder fans always knew that he was. Unfortunately for the OKC faithful, it took a ticket out of town (and out from the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) in order for him to achieve that level of success. Not only has Harden solidified himself as one of the game’s most fascinating scorers (and its fifth most prolific at 25.8 points per game), he’s also turned the Rockets back into a legitimate contender. According to Bovada, Houston has just 75-1 odds of winning the NBA championship, but ask any Western Conference team  just how much they’ll enjoy a first-round matchup with the upstart, energetic franchise and you’ll get a groan of displeasure. This Friday it will be the Grizzlies getting an opportunity to try out the Rockets, on Houston’s home floor no less. While Memphis holds an overwhelming advantage in the sportsbook (with NBA futures hovering at and around 30-1 odds), nothing is certain in the ridiculous Western Conference. Will Harden, coupled with unheralded free agent acquisitions Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, be enough to push this Houston club over the top? The Rockets have finished ninth in the West playoff picture in each of the past three years, a phenomenon you can imagine that’s getting quite stale in Texas. While there may be a few years before the Rockets show an ability to contend with Harden’s former club, or even the aging-yet-permanently dominant San Antonio Spurs, this game has the making of a potential upset. Get a sneak peek at what to expect out of the Rockets when they ply their trade against a Grizzlies club bettors have come to know over the course of the past few years. The Grizz may not be the sexiest choice available on the NBA moneyline, but their routine success has them in a safe position heading into the final week of the regular season. Bet on the NBA as the playoffs fast approach.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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