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Rockets fly high and pound the hapless Grizzlies 130-81

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The Rockets got to rest their starters early against a struggling Memphis squad.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets took a step forward tonight by finally not playing down to their competition and blowing out the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies 130-81 behind a total team performance.

The Grizzlies were missing 6 key members of their rotation, and the Rockets took advantage early, jumping out to a 34-22 first quarter lead behind some hot shooting from downtown by Trevor Ariza, who knocked down 4 triples in the quarter, and Patrick Beverley, who knocked down 2.

The Rockets' lead at the end of the first quarter was the first time they closed out the opening period ahead on the scoreboard since January 30th, a period of 16 games. They would never look back.

The Rockets continued to turn on the juice and dominated the Memphis B-team, taking a 65-41 lead into halftime, and extending it to 85-49 in the third quarter before the majority of the starters sat down for good, taking a well-deserved rest of the night off.

Donatas Motiejunas led all Rockets starters with 18 points in just 21 minutes, as he played his most effective game of the season offensively, scoring in the post, off put backs and canning two from deep. He also contributed 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.

Ariza finished with 16 points, including the 4 threes he knocked down in the first period, James Harden finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists and Beverley finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.

Dwight Howard had just 7 points on 4 total shots, but he was a monster on the glass, snagging 13 rebounds, and an intimidating presence on defense, blocking 5 shots and dominating the paint.

The huge Houston lead in the second half allowed the bench to play extended minutes, and they responded by finishing off the blowout by running the Griz out of the building. Five bench players finished in double figures to lead a total of 9 Rockets that scored 10 or more, and they looked just as electric as the starters tonight.

Michael Beasley finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block to go along with 5 stitches off an errant friendly-fire elbow from Clint Capela, and Beasley continued to look like a surprise steal, as he played just as well with the main rotation as he did with the reserves. The Rockets may actually have something here.

Fellow newcomer Andrew Goudelock showed the scoring for which he is known, putting up 11 points in just 16 minutes of action, including this one from deep:

And Montrezl Harrell, despite playing only the 12 minutes of garbage time in the fourth quarter, had several eye-popping plays, including a skywalking alley-oop and a vicious block.

K.J. McDaniels contributed 10 points and continued to look spry, Jason Terry put in 12, all from beyond the arc, and Clint Capela had 10 points and 5 rebounds to round out the total team effort..

The Rockets shot 54.1 percent from the field, including 16-33 from deep, only turned the ball over 13 times, three below their season average, and featured crisp ball movement and surprising chemistry all night long. The defense held the Grizzlies to just 29.7 percent shooting and forced 19 Memphis turnovers in what was the most complete overall effort of the season.

It's important to stay grounded in that this was a shell of the normal Grizzlies squad -- no Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Vince Carter or Chris Andersen -- but the Rockets did what they needed to against an inferior lineup and did it in spectacular fashion.

Houston moves to 34-33 on the season and are just a half game back of the Portland Trail Blazers, who were shellacked tonight by the Thunder, for the 6th spot in the West. They're also now just 5 games back of Memphis for the 5th seed, certainly not out of reach with the Grizzlies in such precarious straits.

The Rockets play again Wednesday night at home against the Clippers.