Momma always said there'd be days like this.
Sporting the league's best record and an 11-game win streak against Western Conference opponents, the Grizzlies came into Houston Wednesday night and got absolutely steamrolled by the Rockets. Memphis was out-rebounded, out-shot, and out-hustled all night long on the way to a 105-96 drubbing.
The game started off innocently enough, as Memphis opened up on an 8-0 run, taking advantage of a Houston front line that was absent Dwight Howard, and scoring all their points in the paint. From that point on, the Rockets would begin making it rain.
Jason Terry cashed in on two quick 3-pointers, while sloppy Memphis offense and good Houston transitions quickly flipped the 8-0 score to a tie ball game at 19. Over the final four minutes of the quarter, Houston would add an additional 12 points, including nine from James Harden, to take a 34-28 advantage into the second period.
Houston would push the lead to 12 almost immediately behind the infectious energy of Joey Dorsey (yes, that Joey Dorsey). The former Tiger was highly active on both sides of the ball, and Memphis just couldn't answer his energy. The Rockets would push their lead as high as 18 in the quarter before Memphis closed to within 12 heading in to the half.
The Grizzlies would find no solace in the third, as Houston opened up on a 10-0 run over the first two minutes of play to push their lead to 22. Memphis mounted a quick 8-0 response, but with the score at 70-54, Mike Conley missed a 3-point shot that would instantly lead to a 3-point make by the Rockets, and the rout was on. That six-point swing proved to be the dagger in the Grizzlies' spirits, and they found themselves trailing by 26 heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
Memphis was able to close the gap in what was essentially 12 minutes of garbage time. Jarnell Stokes, fresh off his most recent D-League assignment, had 12 points in the quarter, along with three rebounds and two blocks. His good play was the only highlight of the night for a Grizzlies team that simply got beaten down.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- If you're looking for answers as to why this one was so ugly, the box score is pretty telling. Memphis had 21 turnovers on the night, which led to 30 points for the Rockets. It's just really tough to win ball games that way.
- Tarik Black and Joey Dorsey (19) outrebounded Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (13)
- The Grizzlies had given up 30 points or more in a quarter just six times all season coming into tonight. The Rockets scored 30+ in the first and third quarter.
- As bad as the Grizzlies played, nobody on the team had a worse night than Clint Capela, who managed to go 0-6 with two missed free throws and two turnovers in just four minutes of game time (only his second look at the floor in his career).
- On a night like tonight, there's a lot to find wrong, but two things that bug me are long Tony Allen jump shots and Quincy Pondexter pump-fake dribbles. It's true that you never know your limitations until you test them, but these have been tested far too many times.
- Memphis shot 59.3% from the free throw line tonight, and while they are still in the top 12 in the league, this is the third straight game where their percentage has been well below 70.
- A good number of people advocated putting Jarnell Stokes in during the second half of the Kings' game, when Reggie Evans was having his way with the Grizzlies interior defense, and it was being clamored for again tonight. He is a rookie, and a second round draft pick at that, but he is the same type of high energy, good rebounding guy that has been hurting the Grizzlies as of late, and it's definitely something worth trying when literally nothing else is working.
At the end of the day, the Grizzlies are 15-3, and this was just one loss on the season. Even the best teams are going to lay an egg once or twice throughout the year. The real cause for concern came as the Grizzlies were walking off the floor after the game, and Marc Gasol had a noticeable limp.
Halfway through the third quarter, Marc was taken to the ground during a jump ball. He was very slow to get up, and was clearly favoring his right knee. He won possession of the jump ball, and, due to the quality of the game, not much thought was given to any potential injury until he was seen limping into the locker room. When asked afterwards, he said it was hurting, and he would find out tomorrow whether or not it was just a bruise. One road loss to another very good Western Conference team doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but Memphis can ill afford a significant injury to their franchise center.
The Grizzlies will have to develop a short memory, because they return home Friday night to face a San Antonio team that has had their number in recent years. We knew December would be tough, and Memphis will now be forced to respond to their first taste of adversity on the season. Fortunately for us Grizzlies fans, they've proven time and time again that they are more than capable of facing down any challenge. Let's hope they're ready for it Friday night in the Forum.