The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Houston Rockets 115-109 Friday night in FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a banner night for Mike Conley, who after scoring 24 points in 29 minutes of play appears to be rounding back in to form after his back injury, and for the Grizzlies bench, who helped to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
The first half was a tale of two quarters. The Houston Rockets had their way with Memphis to the tune of 31 first quarter points, right in line with their NBA-leading average in the opening stanza. But the key for the Grizzlies was to keep it close and withstand Houston’s early barrage, which they did- Memphis was only behind six at the end of the first. The second quarter was the time for the Grizzlies to make a run, and run they did behind 17 first half points from Conley.
Tony Allen hit a wide open three point shot, Troy Daniels defended well throughout the second quarter, and the Grizzlies outscored the Rockets 29-18 in the second on their way to a 54-49 first half lead. Memphis shot 10% better from the field (48.8% to 38.8%) and also shot 18% better from three (50% to 32%) in an all-around solid effort, especially in the second quarter.
The second half began with a Marc Gasol make. It was fitting, because Marc was an important part of Memphis keeping their lead in the third quarter. He defended well, making shots tough for the Rockets, while attacking off of the pick and pop game and at the rim on offense. Chandler Parsons showed signs of life as well, making two consecutive lay-ups. But the game stayed close because Ryan Anderson was lighting Memphis up from range (22 points, 5-6 from three through three quarters) while Marc Gasol was making passes like this one...
...And the Grizzlies led the Rockets 77-75 as the game entered the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter began with a 23-8 run for the home team as the bench players continued to play key roles. Zach Randolph (16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Vince Carter (14 points), and James Ennis (13 points) all played a part in that run, making threes and creating turnovers defensively. The bench overall shot 8-15 from three for the game and extended the Grizzlies lead to 98-83 after this Jarell Martin put-back dunk-
But Houston did not just lie down. They went on a nine-point run of their own to get the lead down to six for Memphis. The Grizzlies grinded on defense and attacked the rim on offense, getting in to the bonus with a little over 2 minutes left in the game and making just enough shots to keep the Rockets out of reach. Memphis found a way to pull out the victory despite Houston keeping it interesting while hitting their 20th three of the game (on 52 attempts!)...but not without some tension first.
A Rockets-Grizzlies playoff series would have quite a bit of energy and physicality behind it. FedExForum was rocking for this game, and the issue between Conley and Beverley only tipped the scales closer toward full-blown rivalry. Memphis will next see the Rockets in Houston on January 13th.
Memphis is now 20-12 heading in to Christmas. They will play next after the holiday on Monday, December 26th in Orlando against the Magic.