Stuck in mud

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Grizzlies in Memphis 121-110

It's games like this that make buying a lot of stock into the Rockets as serious title contenders difficult. Sure they were on the road and without Russell Westbrook, but Houston still had more than enough talent to defeat this upstart Grizzlies squad.

The Rockets actually started the game with decent intensity, taking a 19-8 lead to in the first 5 minutes. James Harden was rolling (17 points in the first quarter) and Houston was doing just enough to keep a small lead over the Grizzlies. Then, Harden went to the bench, the Rockets completely forgot how to score or defend, and they were completely outmatched by the Grizzlies athleticism (25 transition points allowed).

Outside of Clint Capela, the Rockets had no answer for defending Jonas Valanciunas who ran rough shot over a smaller Rockets team (19 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field). Houston elected to go small with P.J. Tucker at center which may have been a mistake as not only could they not defend Valencias, they also had no rim protection to defend against the constant lob threat Memphis posed.

There's no going around it - this was a bad loss for the Rockets. After a resounding 139-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Houston, they could not bring the same energy against Memphis. They'll have an opportunity to bounce back in Houston against the Trail Blazers in Houston, but it'll be interesting to see how much gas they have left in the tank (Harden and Tucker each played 38 or more minutes each).

Star of the game: Clint Capela was the only Rocket tonight that had a positive plus/minus (+3). Capela logged 17 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 assists on 6 of 7 shooting from the field and 5 of 5 shooting from the free throw line (Capela has only missed 4 free throws in the past 7 games). The Rockets struggled mightily with Capela on the bench as they ad no answer for Jonas Valanciunas (19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block on 8 of 14 shooting).

Honorable mention: If James Harden hadn't shot as poorly as he did tonight, it's like the Rockets win the game and he receives player of the game. Harden had 40 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 block on 13 of 37 shooting from the field and 5 of 19 shooting from three-point range. Harden actually started the game shooting the ball lights out (17 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range).

Key moment: The Rockets had actually took a commanding lead over the Grizzlies out of the gate (19-8 lead by the 7:32 of the first quarter). Things slowly snowballed from there in the Grizzlies direction as they took a 59-47 lead by the 6:17 of the second quarter. Harden was off, the Rockets couldn't score or defend in the minutes that he was on the bench, and Ja Morant took over the game.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

With no James Harden, Russell Westbrook, or Clint Capela, the Utah Jazz were justifiably favored to win this game by 14 points. However, through creativity and relentless attack from Houston's backup guards, the Rockets managed to win an unwinnable game on the second half of a grueling Denver/Utah back-to-back.

Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers showed how helpful they could be for Houston off the bench by combining for 71 points on 21 of 43 shooting from the field and 8 of 19 shooting from three-point range. The Rockets went small with P.J. Tucker at center and strangely, the Rockets were able to keep his minutes to only 32. Houston took advantage of their quickness matchup and relentlessly targeted Rudy Gobert on the perimeter.

Danuel House played a ton of minutes due to the lack of guard depth behind Gordon and Rivers and the positional versatility he has, being a 6'7" player. It'll be interesting to see if House or Gordon return to Houston's starting lineup soon. Ben McLemore's minutes have been tracking down and both House and Gordon have been playing much better as of late.

Whatever the case, this was a huge win for the Rockets. Houston's now won 3 out of their last 4 games after losing 4 games in a row. This was supposed to be an automatic loss and the Rockets managed to pull it off. It's the kind of win that could spark a run for a struggling team.

Star of the game: The journey Eric Gordon's gone through since he's been drafted has been a long one. From being traded to dealing with injuries, Gordon's career hasn't been easy by any means. To see him have the night he did tonight was nice. Gordon had a career-high 50 points on 14 of 22 shooting from the field, 6 of 11 shooting from deep, and 16 of 20 shooting from the free throw line.

Honorable mention: Danuel House started the season by earning his way into Houston's starting lineup and has since been in a bit of a slump. Tonight, however, House was integral to Houston's victory. In addition to playing a staggering 46 minutes, House tallied 21 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 assists on 6 of 14 shooting from the field, 2 of 5 shooting from distance, and 7 of 9 shooting from the free throw line.

Key moment: After starting the game down 0-4, the Rockets went on an impressive 11-0 run and never looked back. On the backs of Eric Gordon (50 points), Danuel House (21 points), and Austin Rivers (21 points), Houston led a balanced offensive attack throughout the course of the game and never really waivered.

Up next: The Rockets finish off their road trip on Wednesday by traveling to Portland at 9:00 p.m. to face the Trail Blazers.

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