The Grizzlies may have lost Kyle Anderson for the next few weeks with an ankle injury, but the Rockets have some of their own woes on the injury front with Chris Paul and Eric Gordon out of action, as well as the Rockets announcing today that Clint Capela will miss several weeks with a thumb injury.
The Anderson injury situation set up for Jevon Carter to get his first NBA start where he would get the chance to slow down James Harden, who was averaging 39.5 points per game in January going into Monday’s contest.
A couple of threes from Carter and Garrett Temple gave Memphis an early 10-8 lead, but Houston would spend the next several minutes going on a 8-2 run to go back up 16-12. The Rockets next basket gave Harden 13 of the first 18 points and a 18-14 Houston lead about halfway through the first. From there, a 10-0 Grizzlies run gave the Grizzlies a lead of six at 24-18.
During that run Marc Gasol took a shot to the funny bone in his right arm, which led to two straight missed free throws, one of which he caught nothing but air and the other barely caught the rim. Gasol was seen on camera saying something about not being able to feel his hand.
The Grizzlies would take a 29-24 lead into the second, where the two teams spent the first few minutes trading baskets, with the Grizzlies maintaining their lead. A Harden three-point play would give Houston a 38-36 lead with 7:19 to go in the half, their first lead since a 18-17 lead in the first. Houston would build their lead up to six and go into the break with a 54-48 lead. Harden scored a Rockets record 36 points in the first half, which also gave Harden his 17th straight 30-point game, a record since the NBA-ABA merger.
Memphis then came out cold to start the third quarter, not making a shot from the floor until a Mike Conley layup at the 8:55 mark. The Grizzlies kept it between a five and eight point deficit until a PJ Tucker three put Houston up 10 with 4:38 left in the third. The Rockets next five makes from the floor would also be threes as part of a 22-10 run to end the third quarter and give Houston an 87-70 lead.
Houston next two makes were from three as well, as they went up 18 points, 93-75. Harden would continue his record setting night, until finally checking out with 57 points, and Houston up 22 points late in the fourth, 107-85. Harden’s 57 is the second-highest point total against the Grizzlies with the record being 60 by Kobe Bryant in March of 2007.
Conley and Temple both had 14 points to lead the Grizzlies, while Jaren Jackson Jr. had 12 points with six rebounds.
Houston was obviously led by Harden’s 57, bit Gerald Green had 14 points and six rebounds while Danuel House Jr. had 15.
The Grizzlies statistically were the better team, as they shot 51% from the floor to Houston’s 44%, a 43-36 edge in rebounding, dominated the paint 50-32, and the Grizzlies bench outscored the Rockets 41-22.
It was the 24-14 turnover deficit, eight less free throws, and eight more threes by Houston (plus some questionable defense at times) that did the Grizzlies in.
Memphis will be back in action on Wednesday night against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at FedExForum.