James Harden returns to MVP form in player grades from win in Memphis

Houston Rockets James Harden Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

There were plenty of great performances for the Houston Rockets as they secured a much-needed 107-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

What a difference a little heart and hustle makes. From the jump, the Houston Rockets were out to make up for their humiliating loss in Miami by putting in effort on both ends of the floor. One particular sequence in the fourth quarter says all you need to know about Houston’s hustle on Monday:

McLemore missed driving layup Capela offensive rebound Capela missed layup Harden offensive rebound McLemore missed 3-point shot Tucker offensive rebound Harden 3-point shot Capela offensive rebound House made 3-point shot

This sequence happened with 6:08 remaining in the fourth quarter while the Rockets were up 94-84. Clearly, Mike D’Antoni’s message to the team about playing soft got through to the squad, as they demonstrated in this sequence, as well as the rest of the game.

Houston saw some desperately needed improvements to their defense, holding the Memphis Grizzlies to 100 points on just 3-of-25 shooting from deep. In Russell Westbrook‘s absence, Eric Gordon also finally had the type of performance the Rockets need from him. For the first time this season, James Harden showed his true MVP form, doing a little bit of everything without his superstar backcourt teammate.

The biggest difference-maker for the Rockets was their 17 to three advantage in 3-pointers made, as Houston shot 17-of-50 from downtown. While the team still has a lot of work to do on post defense (Memphis had a 66-36 advantage in points in the paint), it was a step in the right direction for H-Town.

Here’s a breakdown of the performances that helped Houston cap off their road trip with a 107-100 victory in Memphis.

Next: The Starters

Houston Rockets Eric Gordon (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Eric Gordon (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets Starters

A +. After a rough shooting start through six games, James Harden was the James Harden of old against Memphis. The Beard scored 44 points, dished out six assists and secured 10 rebounds in an all-around effort. Harden also finally had a good shooting night from the outside, going 7-for-16, including a dagger step-back in the final minute of the game. The Rockets will take 12-for-28 shooting from James any day of the week.. Guard. Houston Rockets. JAMES HARDEN

A -. The city of Houston was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, as Eric Gordon finally showed he’s still capable of being a valuable part of the Rockets. After horrible shooting nights to start the season, Gordon connected on three of his nine attempts from the outside and added in some nice drives to the basket, including a thunderous dunk over Jonas Valanciunas in the fourth quarter. Eric’s five rebounds further demonstrate the effort he played with on Monday. Let’s hope this Gordon is here to stay once Westbrook is back in the starting lineup.. Guard. Houston Rockets. ERIC GORDON

A. What a difference it makes when Clint Capela shows energy on the court. Capela did everything the Rockets need him to do besides block shots, but even then still was a shot-altering presence inside. The big man also hit the boards with force, snatching down six offensive rebounds and 13 total. Monday’s performance is what Houston needs on a regular basis from Clint.. Center. Houston Rockets. CLINT CAPELA

P.J. TUCKER. B -. P.J. Tucker didn’t look for his shot, but then again isn’t usually expected to. What he did, as usual, was show tenacious defense and hustle in his 34 minutes. Tucker had six rebounds and three assists in the game but also turned the ball over three times. Overall, it wasn’t a great night, but solid enough for P.J.. Forward. Houston Rockets

A. On a night without their best rebounder in Westbrook, Danuel House was there to pick up the slack. House put in work on the glass, snatching down nine in his 36 minutes. He was also their best defender all night by getting back in transition, staying in front of his man and blocking three shots out of Houston’s five total. House finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting.. Forward. Houston Rockets. DANUEL HOUSE JR.

Next: The Bench

The Houston Rockets Bench

Houston Rockets Austin Rivers (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Austin Rivers (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Guard. Houston Rockets. AUSTIN RIVERS. B. Austin Rivers shot 3-for-9 overall, including 1-of-4 from downtown to finish with seven points. As has been the case often, he didn’t have much else to show for in the box score, but did show hustle on both ends, even pulling down three rebounds.

BEN MCLEMORE. B -. Although he had one of the worst inbounds passes ever in the second quarter, Ben McLemore did an okay job against Memphis. McLemore played 30 minutes, scoring 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting, with all of his field goals being from deep. Ben also had three assists and a steal but wasn’t able to help out on the boards like everyone else. Since Houston had a plus-12 advantage when he was on the court, he gets a B – despite his failure to rebound.. Guard. Houston Rockets

*Note: Chris Clemons, Tyson Chandler and Thabo Sefolosha all played seven minutes or less, so were not graded. Of note, Sefolosha pulled down four rebounds in his seven minutes, including two offensive.

Defense and outside shooting, the two biggest areas of concern for D’Antonio’s Rockets, both took a step forward on Monday against Memphis. While certainly a good sign, they weren’t exactly facing a great team in the 1-4 Grizzlies. As Russell Westbrook returns on Wednesday, it will be important for the team to bring the same energy they had Monday night.

Why Gordon's early shooting woes aren't concerning. Next

Next up for the Rockets, a date with the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.