Harden threw everything he could at this game and clocked out with 41 points, but it came on 13 of 37 shooting as he went ice cold in the second quarter (2 makes) and fourth quarter (zero makes). This came after he dropped a hyper-efficient 17 points in the first quarter.
This game had the feel of one the Rockets would lose unless Harden went for 50 or more as the Grizzlies are on fire, the offense was unidimensional, and Clint Capela’s foul trouble robbed The Beard of his primary outlet.
Ultimately Memphis were the better team tonight and put the Rockets on their heels with constant motion, physical play, and a first half where their 53% field goal percentage seemed low during a glance at the box score. They strung together their sixth consecutive win behind 26 from Ja Morant, 24 from Dillon Brooks, and 19 from Rocket killer Jonas Valanciunas.
The biggest takeaway from the evening is that Mike D’Antoni’s lineup evolution continues. Russell Westbrook got the night off for rest and was replaced with Austin Rivers...
With Russell Westbrook testing, Austin Rivers will start for the Rockets. “Someone is gonna have to chase Ja Morant around, and I’m gonna let Austin do it,” Mike D’Antoni said. Eric Gordon will come off the bench.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 14, 2020
We’re pretty sure Tim MacMahon meant “resting,” but we should probably look up if he voted for James Harden as MVP the last three years before giving him the benefit of the doubt (I’m joking because this loss was disappointing).
Gordon did his job on the offensive side, but appears to still be playing himself back into rhythm on defense. The second unit actually led the noble Rockets comeback which saw Houston briefly take a one point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Danuel House’s slump continued big time. He logged 26 minutes and posted 4 points on 1-3 shooting and a -23 plus minus. D’Antoni stuck with Ben McLemore in the starting lineup after publicly acknowledging House’s disappearance with the lineup switch on Saturday against Minnesota.
D’Antoni further tinkered when Capela hit foul trouble in the third quarter and he brought Tyson Chandler off the bench over Isaiah Hartenstein. Rockets fans were surprised as Hartenstein has logged significant quality minutes in January. The big man registered four minutes of “meh” in the first half, but D’Antoni must have seen something he didn’t like and didn’t put him out in the fourth at all.
A tough loss for sure, but one you don’t feel bad about considering how well the Grizzlies are playing. They deserve a lot of credit for this win.
- Harden now has five straight games against the Grizzlies with 40+ points.
- Former Grizzlies great Tony Allen joined the NBA TV broadcast for the entire second quarter and I LOVED IT. Allen’s the type of guy who frustrated the hell out of you, but you’d want on your team ten times out of ten.
- Tony Allen showered some kind words on PJ Tucker and said he would have been in the grindhouse for sure.
- Tony Allen also said he couldn’t guard Harden. He gave credit to the rules for not allowing him to be overly physical, but hinted that may not have been enough because of Harden’s strength.
- The Rockets defense successfully held Yuta Watanabe to zero points in zero minutes. Not a lot of positive commentary about defense from this one. That’s the lame joke here.
- There was an advertising banner for the “Dude Perfect Arena Tour” coming to Memphis in February. First, those guys are still a thing? Good for them. That’s staying power. Second, are those guys actually automatic with their tricks? I figured they just edited the videos for maximum effect. Good on them if they can throw a twix bar through the spinning blade of a drone while it drains the final beer pong cup from 30 feet in the air and everyone yells “Kobe.”