GAME 52: Rockets 98, Grizzlies 89


Marcus Camby and the Houston Rockets improved to 20-7 at the Toyota Center with Friday's win.

WHO: Rockets 98, Grizzlies 89

WHAT: Big game, big win. The Rockets improved to 28-24 overall and currently sit in 7th in the West with 14 games left in the regular season. The Rockets are 2 1/2 games behind the Clippers for 4th in the West, but also tied with Denver in overall record, and just a game ahead of Utah. More importantly, Houston evened its season series against Memphis (sitting 6th in the West at 27-22 overall) at 2-2. The Rockets have eight road games to only six home games left in the regular season, so taking care of homecourt is vital. They improved to 20-7 at Toyota Center and have one more home game Sunday against a tough Indiana squad before embarking on a rigid road trip to the Midwest and West Coast.

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Rockets’ backcourt got this one rollin’, but the inside play finished it. Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead, Memphis missed its first 6 shots, and the Rockets led 30-19 after the first quarter, with Goran Dragic (career-high 25 points, 7 assists) and Courtney Lee (17 points) combining for 19 points in that initial period, or as many as the Grizzlies. The lead blossomed to 17, but Memphis cut it back by doing what it does best – forcing turnovers and converting that into offense. There were four ties in the second quarter and through the second half, but Memphis couldn’t get over the hump, thanks to a stingy Houston defense that held Memphis to 37.2 percent shooting. That defense can be credited primarily to the return of Marcus Camby, who made his first start as a Rocket while Samuel Dalembert came off the bench due to flu-like symptoms. We saw some nice action of Camby and Dalembert on the floor together, Houston’s modern day Twin Towers, and Camby (7 points, 16 rebounds, 6 blocks) finished the game off, converting two offensive putbacks within 17 seconds of each other in the final minute that both times pushed the Rockets’ six-point lead to eight. Though the Grizzlies had 21 more field goal attempts, thanks to 23 offensive rebounds, and a +9 turnover differential, the Rockets’ strong shooting (52.1 percent) and 3-point differential (7 made 3s to Memphis’ 1) made the difference. The Rockets did a nice job getting out in transition early and not allowing Memphis to settle into its defense in the halfcourt, forcing the Grizzlies to have to play from behind all night, and that proved costly for the Grizzlies.

PATTERSON PUNISHED: Patrick Patterson did not play in the first half after he was late to the morning shootaround, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have an impact on the game. In his 13 second-half minutes, he contributed 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Though he shot just 3-for-9, he did keep a lot of balls alive late, including one that led to Camby’s final offensive putback with 27 seconds remaining.

NO LUCK FOR MEMPHIS IN H-TOWN: The Grizzlies have lost their last 12 meetings against the Rockets in Houston, the longest such streak currently for the franchise. The double whammy is a win could have given them the season series against Houston as they led 2-1 entering the game. Instead they’ll have to settle for a tie. It cannot be said enough how important of a game this was for both teams, and the Rockets answered the call.

SIZING UP THE ROCKETS: We talk so much about how the Rockets will fare against size, and they managed to show some vast strength against a beefy, tall Grizzlies squad that lives in the paint and off the glass. Houston accounted for 42 rebounds and blocked 9 shots. Camby and Dalembert combined for 13 points and 18 rebounds, though admittedly much of that work came via Camby. The Grizzlies did amass 23 offensive rebounds, but when you miss as much as they did (59 missed shots), that’s bound to happen. I was worried the Grizzlies’ size and bulk inside would be a factor. It turned out not to be, and that’s a great sign as the playoffs near closer. That size will be tested in the next few games against Indiana, Chicago and the Lakers.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?: Obviously it’s a big win. Huge. Monumental.  The Rockets evened their season series 2-2 with Memphis and defeated a team they were looking up toward in the playoff race. Not only that, but it was a start-to-finish demonstrative victory from top to bottom that is huge for confidence in lieu of this current brutal stretch. They survived Memphis Friday, but now host Indiana Sunday, are at Chicago Monday and at the Lakers next Friday in the first of a back-to-back that finishes in Sacramento. If Houston can tone down the careless turnovers and make a more concerted effort of attacking the defensive glass, it can certainly compete with anyone.