The Houston Rockets travelled to Memphis and all they got was a lesson in being a powerhouse in the West as the Grizzlies outplayed them on their way to a 103-94 loss. Don’t let the score fool you the game was never was close as the final points will lead you to believe.
Heading into the showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies, a game the Rockets needed to win to keep separation from the 8th seed Los Angeles Lakers, Houston needed to do three things to win this game: get off to a fast start, play at a fast pacer and match the physicality of Memphis. Regrettably the Rockets failed to do so and let the Grizzlies take them to school.
1. Fast Start
The Rockets got off to a better start tonight compared to their loss against the Indiana Pacers. Yet, with that said, the Rockets were essentially trading baskets with the Grizzlies. Unable to stop the Memphis tag team duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on one end and hitting shots on the other. When the Rockets win they get off to a fast start while at the same time keeping their opponents at bay. Part of the reason why the Rockets couldn’t build a lead against the Grizzlies was the pace of the game.
2. Play at a fast pace
The entire game was played at the Grizzlies pace, who showed the Rockets a thing or two about running a half court set. Memphis came into this game wanting to make Houston play the Grizzlies, slow-it-down-dump-it-down-low-offense. For the Rockets to win, unfortunately, they have to do it playing at a faster pace. At the moment this is the Rockets main source of offense. Typically, when the Rockets play slower tempo game Houston turns to James Harden to carry them through it, only tonight, Harden was MIA. (More on Harden in the player ratings)
3. Physical play
The Grizzlies are one of the most physical teams in the NBA and rebounding twin towers Randolph and Gasol are the main henchmen. Omer Asik was always going to have an uphill battle battling both Grizzlies big men on the boards but when your backup point guard leads the team in rebounds at the half with 4, it’s not a good sign. It means the Rockets big men are getting boxed out and out hustled for the boards. When the final buzzer sounded the Grizzlies physical big men combined for 42 points, 17 rebounds and seven rebounds. A problem that has presented itself in the past few games is how the Rockets play against bigger, stronger teams. So far they have failed to answer the call. Such was the case against the Pacers where the height and physical play from Indiana pose problems for Houston. Heading into the playoffs the physical play is only going to increase. The Grizzlies outscored the Rockets in the paint 56-46.
Jeremy Lin: (3) 8 points, 3 assists and 2 steals
- The problem with Lin is his consistency on the court. He was largely invisible against the Grizzlies, being hesitant to drive down the lane and often finding nowhere to go. Defensively Conley had his way with Lin. Beating him to open spots and back door cuts. When Conley wasn’t shooting he was finding teammates on his way to 10 assists.
James Harden: (3) 7 points, 4 assists and 2 steals
- In a game when the Rockets needed the Beard to carry them through some tough stretches he was nowhere to be found. Tony Allen stayed with Harden every step of the way and never let him get comfortable. Harden has had games like these in the past and often finds his rhythm from the free throw line but that was not an option for him tonight. Harden went 0-0 from the charity stripe. Look for Harden to bounce back Saturday night against the Clippers.
Chandler Parsons: (6) 16 points and 2 rebounds
- Parsons did most of his damage in the first half then went AWOL in the second half. That’s not to say Parsons had a bad game. His performance in the first quarter is a major reason the Rockets were able to stay within striking distance of the Grizzlies. Parsons shoot the ball much better and for the Rockets to get back on the winning ways he needs to keep stroking it.
Donatas Motiejunas: (5) 16 points and 2 rebounds
- Motiejunas played his way into a good game. He shot the ball without hesitation and drove the lane when the chance was there. He loses a number grade because he picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter. For Motiejunas to keep playing important minutes for the Rockets he has to figure out a way to stop fouling. Hard to be harsh on him, as he had to contain Randolph, an elite NBA post player.
Omer Asik: (4) 6 points and 4 rebounds
- Asi k did an admirable job but his task was always going to be difficult. Had he played in the fourth quarter he would of probably reached his season average in points and rebounds.
Notable Bench Players:
Patrick Beverly "The Mitten": (6) 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks
- Beverly showed once again how valuable he is to the Rockets. His shot wasn’t going in but found other ways to be effective, including blocking Tayshaun Prince, who tried to post him only to Beverly reject his shot.
James Anderson: (6) 10 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds
- Anderson found his way into the game and made an immediate impact. He drove to the lane and found open teammates. His agility and speed on the fast break helped Houston bridge the small lead the Grizzlies held at the time. This game could be a jump off point for him as he tries to find a way into the rotation.
Kevin McHale: (5)
- It’s hard to see what McHale could have done to change the momentum in the Rockets way. He called the right timeouts to end Grizzlies run but ultimately the players failed to play Rockets basketball. No Rocket starter played in the fourth quarter as McHale opted to go with the bench.
With all the rest the starters got tonight for they should be ready to battle the Clippers Saturday night. What did you think of the game? Should Anderson get more playing time? Follow me on Twitter, @jhacevedo for more Rockets talk.