Houston entered Friday night’s game looking for revenge after the Grizzlies had knocked them off in the teams’ only head-to-head match-up this season just before Christmas in the Bluff City. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, were looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
While things started ugly for the Grizzlies, things completely turned around in the second half. The Grizzlies held the Rockets to 41 points on 26% shooting after the break, and the Grizzlies, in spite of being down 16 points at one point on the road, completed another improbable comeback to get the 110-105 win.
Memphis needed their defense to perform at an elite level if they were going to have any chance of winning this game. The Rockets feature an elite scoring offense. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, still struggle to find consistent scoring, meaning Memphis’ chances rested heavily on the shoulders of the defense.
That defensive effort never materialized in the first half, and on Friday the 13th, the Grizzlies defense looked content to play Camp Crystal Lake visitor to the Rockets’ Jason. Even while one of Houston’s biggest threats, Ryan Anderson, was forced to the bench with three first-quarter fouls, the Grizzlies frequently lost shooters on the outside while also letting Houston attack the paint. Further compounding their struggles, the Grizzlies failed to protect the ball, turning the ball over eight times in the first twenty-four minutes.
Things on the defensive end weren’t helped by Tony Allen, who collected three first-half fouls and left the Grizzlies in even hotter water when Harden returned to the floor. Due to the fouls, Allen played only 12 first half minutes. Meanwhile, Harden entered halftime with 16 points and 4 assists, and the Rockets held an early 13 point lead.
The third quarter opened as a slop fest, with both teams turning the ball over wildly while Memphis’ defensive woes continued to rear their ugly heads. Yet in spite of Memphis’ issues, and thanks in some part to open misses from the Rockets, the Grizzlies managed to claw back within seven points about halfway through the third.
And, just like in their comeback win against Golden State, the Grizzlies continued to slowly chip away at the lead. Memphis finally managed to open up an advantage at scoring in the paint, the Rockets went cold from behind the arc, and after a 32-point scoring outburst capped with a 12-4 run from Memphis, the Grizzlies entered the final frame down just two points. The defense steadily rounded into form, and the Grizzlies, with the game in their sweet spot, pulled on their clutch jeans (*sigh* yes, pun intended).
With just under 11 minutes left, they took their first lead since the first quarter. The Grizzlies ended up opening the fourth on a 9-0 run to open up a 7 point lead, that the Rockets fought back from to tie the game at 92. From that point on, the Grizzlies outscored the Rockets 18-13, and when Troy Daniels hit a three with 26 seconds left to put the Grizzlies up 7, the game was all but over. The Grizzlies completed another improbably double-digit road comeback against one of the best teams in the NBA.
Player of the Game: Tony Allen
If there was any surer sign that it was a Friday the 13th with a full moon, look no further than the Grizzlies’ player of the game and (!!!) leading scorer. Tony Allen was in rare form on both the offensive and defensive end. Allen hit his first 8 shots from the floor on a way to a team-best 22 points on 9-10 from the floor. On the defensive end, TA harassed one the NBA’s leading MVP candidates. Harden had only 9 points in the second half before Allen collected his sixth foul, and the league’s assist leader finished the game with just 9 dimes.
Next Up: Chicago Bulls
The Grizzlies will next take the court again on Sunday, when they take on the visiting Chicago Bulls as part of the team’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.