The Houston Rockets' 129-122 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night was as exhilarating as a defeat can be. The Rockets built up a 16-point lead in the second quarter and took a 70-62 lead into halftime. The Grizzlies were able to widdle the lead down to five points entering the fourth quarter and rode that momentum to the win. In the end, the game came down to the gulf between the two’s superstars, Jalen Green and Ja Morant.
Rockets vs Grizzlies and Jalen Green vs Ja Morant
The back-and-forth battle between Green and Morant had the feel of a battle between brothers. Green played the role of the younger brother, surprising their older brother with newfound abilities, only for the older brother to regroup and reassert the familial pecking order.
Green had an electric first half, that saw him score 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting. However, Morant was his equal, scoring 21 points, but his supporting cast let him down. As key as Green was, the entire team came to play in the first. Eric Gordon pitched in 9 points and Kevin Porter Jr. added 11.
The Rockets' bench also showed up in a big way. Alperen Sengun, Kenyon Martin Jr., and Tari Eason combined for 21 points in the first half and gave the Rockets the edge in bench scoring 21-18. However, the game flipped on its head in the second half.
The second-half superstar-lesson
The Rockets didn’t let the game slip away, as much as Ja Morant took the game from them. Morant needed arguably the finest game of his career for the Grizzlies to emerge victorious. His 49 points in under 32 minutes was the second-highest of his career and led to a career-best game score.
The biggest difference in the game was that Ja Morant is a full-fledged superstar, and Jalen Green is still dipping his toe in the water. With the Grizzlies down eight at halftime, Morant came out and scored 19 third-quarter points to drag his team within striking distance. Green had a strong third quarter, scoring 9 points, but it wasn’t the resounding answer the Rockets needed.
In the fourth quarter, Morant let his co-stars shine, only adding 9 points, but Green fizzled with 4 points on five shots when the Rockets needed a spark most. Friday night, the Rockets went as Green went. Green meant “go” in the first half, but as the game became more tightly contested, he grew more hesitant. A final statline of 33 points on 13 of 21 shooting is fantastic, but the Rockets, unfairly, needed even more.
Jalen Green learns the burden of being a superstar
The burden of being a superstar is having to carry your team when they’re on the ropes. Green displayed all the tools of a superstar but failed to utilize them in the Rockets’ moment of need. Ja Morant, on the other hand, knew exactly when to score, pass, take over, and let others carry the day. Hopefully, Green saw how Morant controlled the game like a superstar. Morant got the better of Green on Friday, but his day is coming, and it’s coming soon.