Over the years, one of the greatest strengths of the Memphis Grizzlies is that they have defended superstars well. However, James Harden has often been an exception, and tonight was no different as he led a dominating effort in a 113-101 victory over the Grizzlies at the Toyota Center in Houston that never felt as close as the actual score. Harden continued his incredible MVP-caliber play with 43 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, including a career-high 21 free throws.
Stats generally don’t matter in a game like this. Of course, Memphis did outshoot Houston at a 46% to 44% clip, and their ball movement was technically superior as it led to five more assists. However, when the other team has the best player on the court, and he plays like he’s the best player on the court, everything else seems to fade into irrelevance.
Here a few more takeaways from last night:
- Kyle Anderson is one the best players on the team, and J.B Bickerstaff seemed to finally realize that. He led the team with 39 minutes and finished with 20 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Much like Jaren Jackson Jr., Anderson just needs to be used correctly. Because when he is, he is an impact player every single night.
- Shelvin Mack’s role seems to be finally getting reduced. After he played 15 minutes in the game against Boston, he played only 13 last night, far from the 25-30 that he’s received for most of the season. It would appear that Dillon Brooks is receiving a chunk of his minutes, who played 19 minutes last night
- The Grizzlies better hope they do not play Houston in the playoffs in the foreseeable future, because Jaren Jackson Jr. will be nearly unplayable if they do. He already has a fouling problem that he has managed to better control as of late. But James Harden, who basically receives whistles whenever he misses a jumper at this point because someone had to foul him in order for him to miss that shot, will remove Jackson from games quickly like he did last night. He had 5 fouls near the end of the 3rd quarter and played only 13 minutes on the night.
- The Grizzlies’ problem does not come from the top. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were certainly not excellent by any stretch of the imagination, but they were fine. Conley had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, while Gasol had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. However, the need them to be spectacular to beat teams like Houston on a nightly basis. The fault is not with them but with a fledgling roster that has significant holes—one that I’m not sure can be fixed moving forward this year.