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.