After a ten game stretch that saw the Rockets rising to the top of most everyone's power rankings, they were in line for a little bit of humble pie on Monday night against an equally strong Memphis Grizzlies team that boasted an identical 9-1 record. The Grizzlies were more than happy to supply the humble pie, putting the Rockets to shame with a 26 point drubbing on a brutal offensive back-to-back for the Rockets.
After managing just 69 points against a depleted Thunder team last night, the Rockets followed that up with yet another abysmal shooting performance, hitting just 8 out of 34 three point attempts and giving the ball up on possession after possession. The team had 15 turnovers in the first half, and never got back into the game after trailing by 23 at halftime.
On the other end, they were just as bad, with the Grizzlies obliterating the Rockets season high of 101 points allowed in a game. Courtney Lee seemingly got open for jumper after jumper, Mike Conley got into the paint at ease, and Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and the Grizzlies backup bigs exploited the Rockets complete lack of big man depth as they outrebounded and outscored the Rockets down low.
All in all, it was a terrible game, and games like this happen. The Rockets have every excuse in the world for the game if they want, as it was the second game of a back-to-back, on the road against the team with a tie for the league's top record, without their starting power forward, but there were a few very troubling trends in the contest.
Most notably, James Harden was taken out of the game and never really made an effort to get back into it. Whereas Trevor Ariza couldn't hit a jumper to save his life but still kept up constant effort on defense and at getting into the paint, Harden seemed disinterested on both ends of the floor and was more than happy to let his teammates carry the load. He took just eight shots, hitting only one, and finished with just six points.
Moreover, when the game was essentially out of reach in the third quarter, Harden started taking fouls out of frustration, seemingly to either foul out or force McHale to pull him from a game he had no interest in playing. Harden has been a much improved player on the defensive side of the ball and has shown much more consistent effort overall this season, but tonight's contest was an unfortunate reminder of the reputation he has yet to shake even in his sixth season in the league.
The Rockets return home tonight for a five game homestand that they could definitely use. After two nights in a row of shockingly bad shooting, hopefully a few days of practice can help them get on track.