The Grizzlies’ surprisingly hot start to the season continued into Monday night, as they fought off the Rockets 98-90 at the Toyota Center in Houston. After an impressive win over the defending champion Warriors Saturday night, Memphis was able to follow it up against a tough divisional opponent.
Now sitting at 3-0, the Grizz are enjoying one of the best starts to a season in franchise history, and the only thing more impressive has been the way they’ve gone about it. Memphis has been able to continue playing the tough defense they were known for throughout the Grit N Grind era while also capably running a faster paced, higher octane offense than what we’ve seen in the past.
Marc Gasol led the way once again, scoring 26 points to go along with 5 rebounds and two assists despite the fact that he, like most of the Grizzlies, struggled shooting the three, going 0-3 behind the arc. Memphis collectively shot 31.6% from downtown. Mike Conley also had a solid performance despite his own struggles scoring the basketball, chipping in 17 points on 30% shooting to go along with 4 assists. Despite his struggles he managed to live up to his status as “Captain Clutch”, hitting four of his nine free throws with less than 30 seconds left in the game to seal the win.
One of the common themes for this Grizzlies season thus far has been the strong bench play. Last week against the Warriors, the Grizz bench was able to outscore Golden State’s second unit. Tonight didn’t exactly follow that script, but one bench player was still able to shine through. Jarell Martin has in my opinion been one of the biggest surprises in a season that continues to be full of them.
The departure of Zach Randolph meant that someone was going to have to help JaMychal Green fill that hole, and Martin has done a tremendous job, especially considering that Green is sidelined with an ankle injury. He followed up a solid performance last week against the Warriors with a good showing tonight, scoring 11 points and pulling down 5 rebounds. On a night when Dillon Brooks cooled off after a hot start and Tyreke Evans struggled to score, Martin’s efforts were very much appreciated.
Houston was led by the duo of James Harden and Eric Gordon, who combined to score 49 points. Despite that seemingly impressive stat, Houston really struggled to score in this contest. As a team, Houston shot a measly 23.7% from three, and Clint Capela was the only other Rocket to crack double digit points.
One of the biggest storylines to Houston’s season continues to be the absence of star point guard Chris Paul, who missed yet another game with a knee injury that’s considered to be on a week-to-week basis. He originally injured his knee in the preseason after a collision with Mario Chalmers (oops!) but played the season opener against the Warriors and never quite looked like himself. The initial assessment is that Paul could be out for two to four weeks, and despite his absence, Houston had played well coming into this game.
Memphis continues to play above expectations to start their season, leaving doubts of their ability to make an eighth consecutive playoff appearance seeming greatly exaggerated, at least to this point. They look to continue their strong start Wednesday, when they play the first of a back-to-back series with the Dallas Mavericks.