James Harden leads Rockets in 121-96 trouncing of Grizzlies

Scott Halleran

The Rockets took the league's best defense to the cleaners on Saturday night, routing the division leader.

With nine minutes and 34 seconds left in tonight's game, the Rockets hit 101 points, matching the Grizzlies season high in points allowed. That stat alone should tell you a bit about how this game went. In an absolute laugher, the Rockets emptied their bench and rolled over the Grizzlies, 121-96.

Simply put, it was the Rockets' most dominant performance of the season and a nearly flawless game. The Rockets exploited their speed advantage early and often, scoring 33 points on the break and shooting 54% from the field. The balanced attack meant the demise of the Grizzlies, who were outmatched in nearly every aspect of the game.

Let's look at three facets of the Rockets' win tonight, beginning with the dominant play of Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, and James Harden.

1) The Rockets' "Big Three" Is Starting To Click

Going into the season, the Rockets' young trio of James Harden, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin were expected to headline this team and dominate the stat sheet. However, early in the year, that hadn't necessarily happened. Harden has become a consistent star player who contributes almost every night, but it's been rare to get both Lin and Asik going at the same time.

However, over the last few days, as the trio has gotten more time together, we've started to see how dominant they can be when they are hitting on all cylinders. Tonight, Omer Asik locked down the middle while James Harden and Jeremy Lin controlled outside, giving the Rockets a vice grip of the game all night.

In essence, the formula for success went something along these lines: Omer Asik rebound (he had 12 in 24 minutes), Jeremy Lin pass to James Harden in transition (11 assists on the night) and James Harden bucket (31 points on 13 shots). It was simple enough, but the Grizzlies had absolutely no answer for it.

2) Marcus Morris Is Becoming A Legit Player

Not much was expected of Marcus Morris when Patrick Patterson went down with a foot injury. He had gotten off to a great start to the season, but his recent weeks had been quite uninspiring. Tonight, however, Morris showed off the biggest signs that he can become a starter at the four spot moving forward.

His offense was solid (6-8 from the field for 16 points), but it was his defense that draws note. Against Zach Randolph, one of the toughest covers in the NBA, Morris allowed just 10 points, some 7 off Randolph's average. With a reputation as a weak defender down low, Morris would be expected to struggle against the massive force down low that is Zach Randolph, but tonight he shined, moving his feet well and forcing Randolph to shoot jumpers over him.

At times, Randolph got to his spots and hit, but by keeping Randolph on the perimeter and not allowing him to get into the paint, Morris limited the damage. Against an elite post player like Z-Bo, that's all you can hope for.

3) James Harden Is Still An Awful Defender

In the first quarter, Quincy Pondexter rose up from three in front of James Harden and drilled it. Harden had been helping off of Pondexter but had recovered in plenty of time to contest the shot. However, he mysteriously did not even put a hand up.

It's no coincidence that Harden's two match-ups, Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter, went off for 11-21 combined on their way to 25 points. I spent most of my film study trashing Harden's defense, and tonight his lack of effort was on full display, as he often was left completely ignoring his mark.

That can sometimes work against a guy like Tony Allen, but better shooters will make Harden pay. Tonight, I think we'll excuse it.

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