The Memphis Grizzlies capitalized on a golden opportunity to add to the win column. Their opponent, the Houston Rockets, were losers of their last ten and sputtering thanks to owning the league’s worst three-point percentage. Back when these two teams faced off just a few weeks ago, Houston’s situation differed drastically. The team was above .500 and on a tear thanks to all-star caliber play from Christian Wood. But Wood injured his ankle the last time these two squads faced off, and the Rockets haven’t won a game since.
Houston mustered only 84 points by the final buzzer — an eye-opening stat when juxtaposed with the Grizzlies’ 85 bench points. The Rockets fell by an astounding 49 points, with the final score being 133-84 in favor of Memphis.
Let’s give out some exceptional grades to celebrate a wire-to-wire victory for the Grizzlies.
Justise Winslow- 20 points, 8-12 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 21 minutes
From the moment Justise Winslow took the court as a Grizzly, it was evident his defense would impact winning. His combination of agility, bulk, and fervor make him perhaps the best all-around defender on this Memphis squad — if not the most accomplished. But Winslow’s defensive performance isn’t what’s had Grizzlies fandom displeased. Instead, it’s how he’s fared on the other side of the floor that’s drawn criticism.
Winslow laid the doubters to rest in this one with his finest offensive performance in a Memphis uniform. From the get-go, Winslow was an exemplary dribble-drive threat – he persistently weaved his way into the teeth of the defense and kicked out the rock in a timely fashion once the defense collapsed. Not to mention his perimeter jumper was in tip-top shape as he exploited several mismatches for quality mid-range looks in isolation. After converting just eight of his first 32 shots with Memphis heading into Sunday’s matchup, Winslow reached his new career-high with the team in the first half alone, tallying 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Additionally, Winslow continued to serve as the defensive fulcrum of the Grizzlies’ bench unit. Winslow stymied Houston’s guards and bigs throughout as both a rim-protector (he’s a wonderful help defender) and on-ball irritant. It was a near-flawless multifarious performance for Winslow and one that should instill further confidence in a player paramount to Memphis’ postseason aspirations.
Desmond Bane- 15 points, 6-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 28 minutes
No player for either side impacted the final outcome more than Desmond Bane. At first glance, with a solid albeit unspectacular 15 points on the outing, this notion might appear hyperbolic. Although let me assure you, it is anything but. Bane is much, much more than merely a long-range marksmen. His multidimensional repertoire was on full display, more so than any other game this season.
John Wall — Houston’s top player in this one with Christian Wood sidelined — was a non-factor scoring-wise. For this, Memphis fans should mostly thank the neophyte. His on-ball defense on the speedster was nothing short of impeccable — Bane snatched the rock loose from Wall on multiple occasions and forced deflections with his lightning-quick reflexes. More often than not, when Houston forced the switch of Bane onto Wall, the veteran floor general was stonewalled from attacking the rim.
On a Grizzlies starting lineup bereft of all-world defenders at the wing spots, Bane was forced to play the role of defensive stopper, and he did so to a tee. Bane’s effort on the glass further strengthened an already stout defensive showing. He pulled down seven rebounds, an encouraging mark and one that, if he can replicate, makes him an ideal fit in the starting unit alongside notoriously mediocre board-snatcher Jaren Jackson Jr.
Bane’s a two-way player. While his three-point shot is his calling card, NBA fans will soon learn that the former TCU star is as influential on defense as he is on offense.
Next up on the calendar for the Grizzlies are the Washington Wizards. Tune in Tuesday at 6 PM CT.