The Houston Rockets paid homage to the Grit ‘n Grind Memphis Grizzlies of the 2010’s with a 111-91 victory Wednesday night. The 20-point margin may show that this was a blowout, but trust me when I say that this was a much uglier game to watch.
Jalen Green came alive in the third quarter as this was truly a game of two halves. His 26-point outburst in the second half offset a lackluster first half that resulted in the Rockets trailing by one at the midway point. The 34-point night for Green also featured an electric dunk over reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr. to close out the third quarter and ignite the building.
Jalen followed through in the fourth quarter with even more heroics as the lead suddenly ballooned to an insurmountable lead against the beleaguered Grizzlies.
Dillon Brooks played his first game against the only team he had known as home during his career. His night was unspectacular as far as shooting goes (13 points on 4-of-14), but after this one, Memphis probably regrets letting go of some of the “swagger” that he provided them over the past six seasons.
Jabari Smith Jr. fueled the Rockets early on with 18 points and 9 rebounds as the rest of the offense struggled. It’s been encouraging to see the gradual uptick in his production recently. Houston will certainly need to see this type of Bari going forward as the team continues to build upon winning ways.
Alperen Sengun didn’t have his greatest game of the season (11 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists) as Bismack Biyombo — he’s still around — and JJJ’s size were able to slow him down. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet chipped in 16 points and 7 rebounds, as well as some backbreaking threes that really put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
We should also recognize Jae’Sean Tate and Tari Eason’s impact on the game tonight as the intensity certainly elevates with them on the floor.
A few things that stood out
Houston was plagued by a slow start to this game. It looked bleak early on versus a Memphis team that is among the league’s worst with so many of their key players out of action. It also didn’t help that the Grizz were living at the line and had a 35-to-20 advantage at the free throw stripe.
However, Memphis couldn’t survive a three point disparity as Houston doubled them up, 14-to-7, from behind the line. That will most likely be an issue going forward for Memphis as they simply lack an abundance of bucket getters with Ja Morant still serving his suspension. Desmond Bane and Jackson Jr. have been thrust into spots where they are relied upon to generate more points than usual and it’s just not a recipe for success if they’re your top two scorers.
Perhaps they could be a Zach LaVine destination...
Another thing I wasn’t thrilled about was the lack of fast break conversions by Houston early on in the game. There were far too many sloppy passes or guys neglecting to pass when there were 2-on-1 opportunities. It played a large part to a subpar first half in which Houston should have taken control of this game, but thankfully the defense compensated for a struggling offense.
This was an important win for the Rockets as the next four games will task them with somehow trying to halt Jokic (2x), Doncic, and LeBron/AD. 4-0 is wishful thinking, but I’d be happy with a split.
Until then, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe!