THE FACTS: Even the NBA's best defensive team had no answers for James Harden and the Houston Rockets' red-hot offense.
Harden scored a game-high 31 points and dished out eight assists, while Jeremy Lin added 15 points, 11 dimes and six rebounds as the Rockets ended the Memphis Grizzlies' four-game winning streak with a 121-96 beatdown on Saturday at Toyota Center. Omer Asik posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 boards. Four other players scored in double-figures for Houston (14-12), which has won three games in a row overall and four straight at home.
Mike Conley paced Memphis (18-7), which has lost three of its last four road games, with 16 points and six assists, while Quincy Pondexter scored 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting off the bench. The Grizzlies simply did not defend with the intensity and focus they displayed in their previous four contests, during which they allowed an average of only 79.8 points.
QUOTABLE: "No matter who we play, we don't want to change our style. I thought we got pretty much whatever we wanted."
-- Rockets forward Chandler Parsons
THE STAT: After the Grizzlies limited Houston to a season-low five fast-break points in a 93-85 victory Nov. 9 in Memphis, the Rockets scored a season-high 33 fast-break points Saturday. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, finished with only three points in transition.
TURNING POINT: The Grizzlies showed signs of life after halftime, trimming a 13-point deficit to 70-64 with 8:50 remaining in the third quarter. But Houston quickly stretched the lead to 77-64 after three consecutive defensive stops, including a Harden steal, which led to three transition buckets and a free throw for Harden. The Rockets' lead never dipped below double-digits after that.
QUOTABLE II: "We tried to play their game, and they are obviously better at playing at that pace than us. They beat us in every aspect of the game."
-- Grizzlies center Marc Gasol
HOT: Harden, the league's fourth-leading scorer entering Saturday, made Memphis the latest victim of his recent tear. In addition to netting at least 28 points in four consecutive games, Harden has averaged 5.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and shot 52.5 percent (32-for-61) from the field during this stretch.
NOT: The Grizzlies gave up more points than they had all season for a game and a half, as Houston recorded its 10th 60-point half of the season with 64 points over the first two quarters. The Rockets also became only the second Memphis opponent to reach the century mark this season, snapping the Grizzlies' league-best 23-game streak of limiting opponents to less than 100 points.
GOOD MOVE: The Rockets knew their best chance to generate great looks at the basket against Memphis' league-leading defense would have to come early in the shot clock. Houston executed its game plan brilliantly, pushing the ball up the court at every opportunity to keep Grizzlies defenders off-balance and out of position for most of the night.
QUOTABLE III: "James had a great thrust when we were coming [down the court], and we really wanted to make an emphasis on trying to score before ... their bigs kind of got into the paint and try not to go against their size all night. ... Once [the Grizzlies] get their defense set, they're tough."
-- Rockets coach Kevin McHale, on Harden
BAD MOVE: Memphis may have had a better chance to keep up with the running Rockets if its top scorers had taken a more assertive approach on the offensive end. Through three quarters, Grizzlies stars Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph both had fewer shot attempts than role players Tony Allen, Darrell Arthur and Pondexter.
NOTABLE: The Grizzlies have lost 13 consecutive meetings with the Rockets in Houston. They last won at Toyota Center on April 15, 2006. ... Memphis lost for the first time this season (11-1) when Conley commits less than three turnovers. ... Houston has drained at least 51.3 percent of its shot attempts in three consecutive games. The team had not shot better than 50.0 percent from the field in three straight games since March 13-17, 2010. ... The Rockets improved to 7-1 this season when Harden scores at least 30 points and 10-2 when Harden connects on at least 45.0 percent of his field-goal attempts. ... Houston has won 28 of its last 32 December home games. ... Houston is 4-1 since McHale returned from his leave of absence. ... The Rockets handed out a season-high 32 assists, which also set Memphis' opponent season high.
UP NEXT: For the Grizzlies: Wednesday vs. Philadelphia, Saturday vs. Denver, Dec. 31 @ Indiana. For the Rockets: Tuesday @ Chicago, Wednesday @ Minnesota, Friday @ San Antonio.