The Grizzlies wrapped up their season series with the Rockets on Saturday night. After taking the first two games of the series, Memphis dropped the final two games in dispiriting fashion, capped by Saturday's 105-83 loss.
Coach David Fizdale, attempting to perhaps provide a spark to a starting unit that had been lackluster recently, replaced James Ennis in the starting lineup with Chandler Parsons, while Mario Chalmers started his second consecutive game at point guard. The move would provide another creator on the wing, a necessity during Conley's absence.
It was also the Grizzlies' first game against Houston with new addition Chris Paul, as the former Clipper returned from a bruised knee on Thursday night during the Rockets historic dismantling of the Suns.
Saturday night's game did not start particularly auspiciously, with the Rockets knocking down their first two shots beyond the arc, but this time Memphis managed to keep pace with Houston's scoring by driving into the lane and getting good looks in the paint.
Defense continued to be an issue for the Grizzlies, as Houston was able to generate open looks from three, and they were hot early. At the end of the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed 33-25, and the Rockets had shot 6-12 (50%) from three.
The defensive issues continued in the second quarter, and, for once, the Grizzlies bench could not keep them above water. The offense, which bogged down, was an issue, as was the fact that the Rockets continued to hit threes at an incredible rate. It didn't help that the Rockets were able to stagger Harden and Paul. The Grizzlies old nemesis punished mismatches, and by halftime, Paul had 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting, including 3 of 4 from three.
After going down 18 in the second quarter, Memphis managed to go on a massive run, though. They drained three consecutive threes and got a few key stops to cut the Rockets lead to 2 before another Houston run stretched the lead back to 9 at the half.
The Rockets came out hot again in the third quarter. They generated open looks at the basket by driving into the lane, forcing Gasol to help before dumping the ball off for easy baskets. James Harden also continued to be a thorn in the Grizzlies side. Whether it was knocking down threes, throwing lobs for Capela to finish, or diming up teammates for open catch-and-shoot opportunities, the Grizzlies simply had no answer for the Beard. At the end of the third, the Grizzlies trailed 82-67, having managed just 17 points in the quarter.
The Grizzlies opened the fourth on a 6-0 run to draw within single digits, but the Rockets once again pulled away with a run of their own to stretch the lead up to 20 before the game descended into garbage time.
Memphis shot decently from deep in the first half, but their shooting faded down the stretch. They finished the night shooting 25.9% from three. They weren't particularly good elsewhere on the floor, either, shooting just 36% from the field. Parsons led the team with 17 points in 2 minutes on 7 of 9 shooting. Gasol and Green both pitched in 15, though the Rockets did a good job forcing Big Spain into tough shots.
The Grizzlies (7-8) will be off on Sunday before welcoming the Portland Trailblazers to FedExForum on Monday for game three of their four game home stand.
- Brandan Wright left the game at halftime with a groin injury and did not return, prompting Fizdale to go to Deyonta Davis. Davis looked much more engaged this time around. His appearance also coincided with a 6-0 run to start the fourth. In his 9 minutes of playing time he posted 3 points and 3 rebounds.
- More concerning than the Wright injury was the apparent shoulder injury to Tyreke Evans, who went down after being fouled on a layup. Evans appeared to be in a great deal of discomfort, but he shot his free throws (making one of two) and remained in the game. Hopefully he will not miss any time.
- Rockets center Clint Capela lost a shoe at one point. Marc Gasol, clearly attempting to clear the floor of a tripping hazard, kicked the shoe aside and was promptly called for a technical foul. It was an absurd call. More absurd, though, were the Rockets announcers (as a Houston resident, I have to listen to this garbage) who called it "bad sportsmanship" on Gasol's part. I nearly had an aneurysm.
- JaMychal Green played a key role during the Grizzlies 15-0 run in the second quarter. He played exceptional defense on James Harden and also hit a three. JaMychal is still knocking off a little rust, but it's unmistakeable how important he is to this Grizzlies team.
- Andrew Harrison returned to the lineup, playing with the bench unit. He played seven minutes in the first half, was 0-1 shooting, and was a -12 (the entire bench unit was a net negative in the first half). He did not return until the game was out of reach in the second half.