The Houston Rockets shot nearly 43% from three on their way to embarrassing the Grizzlies, who boast the fourth best defense in the league.
After losing their first two games against the Memphis Grizzlies this season, the Houston Rockets have easily put them away in their final two regular season matchups. Saturday night, the right players got hot at the right time to roll to an easy win. The season series is now tied at 2-2, and it looks likely that these teams will meet in the playoffs
If things stay as they are, the Rockets will meet Memphis in the first round, a prospect that had fans feeling uneasy after the Grizzlies ground out two solid wins early in the season. If anybody was still worried about Houston’s chances in that potential series before last night’s game, though, they should be feeling better now.
The Grizzlies are known for being gritty and physical, and boast a defensive rating of 103.6, better than all but three teams in the league. The Rockets, however, cared not for their reputation on Saturday. The team shot 50% from the field, despite Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza having off nights. The pair shot a combined 3/18 on the night.
Houston held a four point lead after halftime, but then James Harden poured in 20 of his 33 points in the third quarter. He finished with 11 assists and 7 rebounds as well, shooting 9/15 overall. The Rockets outscored the Grizzlies 38-27 in the third frame, leading by 15 at the start of the fourth. They didn’t stop there either, extending the lead to 20 with about six minutes left in the game.
As a last-ditch effort, Memphis turned to the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, fouling Clint Capela five times in less than 3 minutes. The 54.8% free throw shooter got hot from the line, making 8 of his 10 attempts. The big man finished with a career high of 24 points to go along with 11 boards.
The Rockets got the win, but they didn’t play a perfect game. I mentioned earlier that Ryan Anderson had an off shooting night, but he wasn’t good on defense either. His assignment, JaMychal Green, put up 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9/11 shooting.
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Mike Conley also played well for the Grizzlies, scoring 23 points and totaling 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Marc Gasol didn’t have a great offensive game with only 17 points, but his presence was felt by his 4 blocks and 2 steals.
Overall, Memphis just couldn’t keep up with the Rockets’ shooters. There are so many marksmen on the roster, that it doesn’t matter if a couple of guys don’t shoot well. Harden and Eric Gordon combined to shoot 12/19 from beyond the arc, and that’s all it took.
However, while the Rockets can beat the Grizzlies despite everyone not playing well, that won’t be the case against the West’s elite. Eventually, in all likelihood, Houston will face the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. When that happens, everyone will have to be firing on all cylinders.
Houston will get a taste of what that will look like tomorrow, when they take on the Spurs in San Antonio. The Rockets are 1-2 against Kawhi Leonard and company this season, so they’ll look to even things out in their last regular season meeting of the year.
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Stats are accurate as of March 5th, 2017 and are courtesy of NBA.com.