The Houston Rockets did not deserve a win tonight but that didn't stop them from leaving every ounce of sweat and hustle on the court when all was said and done. Jeremy Lin sparked a comeback run late in the fourth quarter that brought the Grizzlies' lead down to two points but some bad bounces and an inability to combat Memphis' muscle inside eventually extinguished any hopes for a W. The Grizzlies won the game 93 to 85. Turnovers have been the root of the problem for Houston early on in the season and for a young team that's to be expected. Allowing 27 points off of turnovers, however, is never excusable. The 20 turnovers (to Memphis' 9) weren't the only problem for the Rockets.
The Grizzlies scored 48 points in the paint and were allowed to get whatever kind of looks they needed from close range. Zach Randolph, a player Chuck Hayes once referred to as the hardest big man to guard in the game, rooted himself inside Houston's defense during crucial possessions and had five important offensive rebounds. This season the Rockets have wielded a doctrine of speed. Kevin McHale insists that the Rockets are going to outrun their opponents and score in transition. The Rockets did not have a single fast break point until the last four minutes of the game while Memphis finished with 21.
James Harden finished with 18 points on 22% shooting but he was able to get to the line. James had a rough night. Chandler Parsons (19 points, 3-6 from downtown) had an exceptional game and kept the score close in the third quarter when nobody else could put the ball in the hoop. Houston's bench looked atrocious aside from some much needed help behind the arc from Carlos Delfino in the first half. The Grizzlies gave Rudy Gay (21 points, 7 rebounds) any shot he wanted and Zach Randolph (14 rebounds, 15 points) was Memphis' backbone.
The End of the Game:
The game first got close half way through the fourth quarter when James Harden's man ducked under a screen in transition (Harden shot 4-18 and was not a threat from the perimeter) and James nailed a three. At that point Houston was within a couple of points. Memphis newcomer Wayne Ellington quickly returned the favor from deep. Some sloppy turnovers, poor interior defense, and foul trouble quickly snowballed into an 11-nothing Memphis run. With only a couple of minutes left, I was relatively sure that the game was over and began to draft my recap which had a completely different tone than the one you're reading now.
Out of nowhere, Jeremy Lin (15 points, 3 assists, 2 steals), who had been unsuccessfully experimenting with some hero-ball, was able to take over the game. Lin was punishing the Grizzlies in transition, converted a three point play the old fashioned way, and had a beautiful steal. Lin answered the Grizzlies run with a 9-0 run of his own and the Rockets were within striking distance - Rockets 85, Grizzlies 87. What followed was depressing.
Mike Conley ended Houston's late game push with a three pointer. The Grizzlies double teamed Parsons right when he was supposed to be passing the ball and forced a turnover. On the next possession the Grizzlies were given three chances to try and score due to an unfortunate mixture of bad bounces and Houston's inability to keep Memphis' frontcourt out of the paint. Omer Asik did his best to contain Z-Bo and Gasol, but eventually the once close game had ballooned into a seven point lead. The back and fourth of the late fourth quarter did not net us a win but I saw grit, fire, and guts out of this amusingly young team and I'm damn proud of the way they fought to salvage what had previously been a notably poor outing.
Overall, this was very frustrating game. The Rockets could have had a decent lead going into half time if it weren't for a plethora of boneheaded turnovers. Memphis is a team that is very good at destroying turnover friendly opponents and guess what - we're about as turnover friendly of a team as they come. The offense wasn't up to snuff and while the defense started out pretty good the intensity quickly faded.
Patrick Patterson is still shooting threes. If he can hit them consistently, he'll be a welcomed perimeter option for Harden and Lin's pick and roll bail out. If he can't, he needs to knock it off.
The Grizzlies bench stepped up big. Jerryd Bayless had 12 points and was a pest on defense. Speights was inneficient, but brusing and Wayne Ellington made some noise when it counted. Houston's bench barely contributed. Kevin McHale is going to have to let one of our rookies see the floor if he wants to stay competitive with the starters out.
Coach McHale has thankfully decided Tony Douglas probably isn't the answer to Houston's back up point guard situation. Instead of letting rookie playmaker Scott Machado get a shot at running the floor the Rockets are going to try letting Harden play point guard when Lin is subbed out. Tonight, this strategy had as many positives as negatives.