Grizzlies Even Season Series, Smother Rockets (Again) 99-81

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

First two season series games: Grizzlies build big lead, Houston storms back to victory and even scores in triple digits once. Second two games: Sluggish and ugly games end in Memphis victories. The good news: We wont have to see them again unless we meet in the playoffs.

After ending the Rockets three game winning streak last night, the Grizzlies added insult to injury by crushing Houston in Memphis tonight in Tennessee.

I was not able to watch the game last night and was deterred from doing so because I didn't want to subject myself to what the box score was telling me.  Adding another reason for me to not like the Grizzlies, Memphis delivered devastating repeat performance while the Rockets couldn't move the get the scoreboard moving with anything resembling a historic shooting performance.

I got all the bad and none of the good this go around.

Memphis out-rebounded Houston (to put it lightly) and their bench took care of business, ballooning a moderate halftime lead into a 20+ laugher in no time.

Game Notes

Houston started with a Howard dunk off of a Harden assist and forced a turnover on the defensive end.  Per usual, the Rockets got the ball to Dwight early on in the post, but they had trouble scoring points in bunches.  The result was similar to the previous night:  a slow moving scoreboard.

Zach Randolph already had seven rebounds before the halfway point in the first quarter.  Dwight had five.  Only one other player in the entire game by that point had more than one (TJones - 2).

After his historic performance the other night, Parsons came out 0-3 to start the game.  Harden switched gears after his career high assist game yesterday and turned on his scoring prowess, leading the Rockets scoring effort in the first quarter.

Memphis pushed themselves into the lead as the both teams dipped into their bench units.  The Grizzlies generated an 8-2 ‘run' (as if the game's pace at all lends itself to that phrasing), ending the first quarter with a score a 16-14.  Those 14 points were a season low for the Houston Rockets in the first quarter this season.

Parsons finally found his shooting touch, hitting a three pointer to put the Rockets back in the lead within 90 seconds of the start of the second quarter.  Kosta Koufas responded by leading Memphis' scoring effort with eight quick points before the Grizzlies got their 3-point shot going with Mike Miller and James Johnson, reclaiming the lead and extending it to seven at one point.

Memphis was dominating in bench scoring 16-2.  Lin was not creating offensive opportunities for himself or others and the only made basket was a Casspi 2-pointer.

Beverley started moving the scoreboard when Memphis basically dared him to shoot 3-pointers from the corner, drawing the game closer.  The game still retained its slow, Grizzlies enforced pace.  Houston wasn't doing itself any favors by committing turnovers and fouls that stopped any budding scoring momentum.

Dwight and Gasol were getting really into it on the block, which made the whole affair much more entertaining to watch, although Howard was receiving the brunt of the foul calls when they were made.

The half sputtered to an end after a score made possible by 2 Grizzlies' offensive rebounds, and a tweaked Lin ankle: 46-35.

Last night's halftime score was almost identical.

Houston shot 39% in the first half.  The bench collectively shot 1 of 6 (16%) for 2 points.  The Rockets were 3 of 15 (20%) from beyond the arc.  Not a single player in the game reached double digits by the break Parsons leading all scores with 9 and Dwight Howard, Mike Conley, and Kosta Koufas all tying for second with 8.  James Harden did not take a free throw.

The Memphis bench simply out-played the Houston bench, outscoring them 23-2 at halftime.

It was ugly.

The Rockets started the third qurter pressuring Memphis in the back court in a possession that ended with a steal by Dwight Howard from Zbo that resulted in a James Harden bucket.

Memphis was intent on feeding Zach Randolph on the block and, although Houston was able to create havoc in a few instances, our offense could not take advantage of the opportunities the defense could create consistently enough.  This resulted in a 51-37 lead for Memphis early in the third.

Lin finally showed up, scoring his first points of the game with just less than 8 minutes in the quarter.  But immediately after his promising basket, Zach Randolph gets an and-1 at the rim, ballooning the lead to 18.

McHale placed Harden on Randolph in the block, which I found to be an interesting play.  I know Harden is much stronger than he looks and maybe they are just changing up defensive looks on Zach, but that just did not feel like a productive move.

Marc Gasol, on the other hand, got in foul trouble and was forced to sit midway into the third.  Harden was able to help the offense chug along slowly, finally getting his first two free throws of the evening.

In the final 3 minutes of the third, Memphis was snagging rebounds and Houston was trying to shoot their way back into the game.  Harden was also playing much more aggressively, which was one of the only things preventing this game from getting entirely out of control before the fourth quarter.

Before the buzzer, however, Memphis took advantage of a questionable non-call on a Calathes steal and put Courtney Lee in position to nail a 3 pointer, putting the score at 71-54 going into the final period.

In stark contrast to last night, Parsons did not score a single point in the third quarter, missing some shots from distance.  No one was playing with enough fire in the third quarter, which is normally the quarter we count on Houston showing up in so far in the season.

Calathes started the fourth quarter with a steal and bucket on the other end.  Houston was trying to shake things up, putting in Aaron Brooks for the first time.  Courtney Lee immediately took advantage of his size advantage, forcing a rotation that resulted in an and-1 free throw attempt.

Memphis continued to dominate in the offensive rebounding category with the Rockets small rotation in.  With the lead hovering at 20 points, the starters started to trickle back into the rotations.

Unfortunately, Houston was just out of gas.

Their offense was not able to find anything resembling...well...an offense.  Memphis extended the lead with back-to-back three pointers and that was all she wrote.  Houston kept TJ and Lin in the game but pulled everyone else, conceding defeat after a game that was honestly difficult to finish watching.

Concluding Thoughts

The difference makers in this game were bench scoring and extra possessions.

Memphis' bench was red hot, scoring 44 of their 99 points.  Houston scored just 27, with more of theirs coming after the game was definitively over (Covington, for example, got 6 points in his garbage minutes). Jeremy Lin will need to be able to generate better play with the minutes he is given if our second unit is going to be able to both get us back into games when we're behind and maintain a lead we've built.

Memphis also dominated the rebounding battle 52-38 (Off Rbds: 16-10 - Grizzlies).  They consistently broke our momentum after defensive stops by getting offensive rebounds and kept us to one shot on a lot of possessions.

Disheartening loss, especially when its against the same team like that.

This Memphis team is a bit scary to play even if they are not considered as threatening as they were when they knocked the Spurs out of the playoffs a while back.  That coaching staff has their players ready for battle, and I respect that greatly.  If I were a Memphis fan, I'd love the rag-tag group of bench players the coaches have gotten production out of lately (James Johnson in particular).

Hopefully, we can shake the shooting woes on Tuesday against the Spurs.

Check out more coverage over at Grizzly Bear Blues.

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