Grizz Grind Way To Win Over Rockets
Memphis outlasts Houston, hangs on for 82-78 win
HOUSTON - Riddled as it was with hard fouls, bone-jarring collisions and nasty spills, Friday’s tilt between the Rockets and Grizzlies frequently resembled some sort of futuristic version of the game where anything goes and the winner is simply the one left standing at the end of a two-and-a-half hour, no-holds-barred, bloodbath. The resulting theater was simultaneously brutal and beautiful to watch as the two teams took turns taking their best shots at one another, only to see their adversary rise, smile and ask for more – over and over and over again.
It was, to be sure, a Grizzlies kind of game. The masters of grit-and-grind found both the style and pace of play to be right in their wheelhouse. That the contest was called with a laissez faire bent merely seemed to add to the Memphis advantage. When the Grizzlies raced out to a 19-point first half lead, the writing seemed on the wall. Memphis, losers of 13 straight in Houston, had finally managed to make itself right at home in Toyota Center, utilizing its boa constrictor-esque defense to suffocate and strangle the life out of the Rockets.
Only Houston had no intention of listlessly lying down and accepting its fate. Instead the Rockets rallied by stealing a page out of the Grizzlies’ handbook, scratching and clawing their way back into the game with some masterful D and a heaping helping of grit and grind of their own. James Harden caught fire from beyond the arc. Terrence Jones turned into an offensive rebounding machine. Jeremy Lin spun a subpar night on its head with a series of massively clutch plays in crunch time. Three different times in the fourth quarter the Rockets managed to tie things up and make Memphis squirm, summoning all the ghouls that had haunted the Grizzlies for the past seven years.
Those ghosts, however, could only do so much. In the game’s final 90 seconds, Harden came up empty on four straight shots, the last a wide-open look he had created for himself via a play that seemed straight out of the Michael Jordan-Bryon Russell last second canon. Though overtime seemed to beckon, the shot bounced out, allowing the Grizzlies to escape with an 82-78 victory. The end result was hardly satisfying for Houston. But amid the bitter disappointment of defeat, the fact the Rockets had nearly rallied to beat the Grizzlies at their own game, without the services of an injured Chandler Parsons (strained right calf) no less, was not lost on the players and coaches filing through the somber postgame locker room.
“Today was definitely a good lesson,” Lin said after finishing up with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. “Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end but we learned a lot and gained valuable experience going into the playoffs.
“This one was very physical but we showed a lot of toughness and a lot of grit fighting back. They didn’t make anything easy for us and I really don’t think we made anything easy for them.”
Indeed, Houston’s defense was downright Grizzlies-esque throughout the entirety of the second half. The Rockets limited Memphis to just 33 points over the course of the final two quarters, giving themselves a chance to win despite shooting just 31.5 percent from the field and turning the ball over 20 times. The game bore witness to little of Houston’s usual artistry on the offensive end, but such is frequently life when facing off against one of the most stifling units in the NBA. That the Rockets were still able to rally thanks to their ability to rise to the challenge defensively, however, bodes well for a team that knows it will have to thrive on both ends of the floor if it hopes to make noise in the postseason.
“I think everybody got a glimpse of how the playoffs are going to be and it was good for us, a good learning experience,” said Harden, who finished with a game-high 30 points but also eight turnovers.
“We have a lot of confidence. Being down 19 and coming back, playing the right way, not scoring the ball tremendously well but relying on our defense to get us over the hump really helped us out and showed what we can do, especially on the defensive end. We get so much credit for our offense but when we want to lock-in and play defense, we’re a very good defensive team as well.”
(On the game) “We had our chances. We didn't get out and run as much as we wanted. We missed just a ton of shots. We didn't have a whole lot of flow to the game offensively. We had our chances, we just didn't do a good enough job of putting the ball in the hole. I thought we had some turnovers that hurt us. It wasn't a great game but our guys showed a lot of fight. The second half we played way harder than I thought we did the first half. The first half I thought we came out a little bit timid. We weren't really playing as hard as I thought we had to.”
(On executing in the 4th quarter against a tough defense) “I thought more than anything our defense picked up a lot. We had a lot of chances to get out and run. We held them to 33 in the second half. For us to beat that team...we missed a lot of shots, we missed nine layups in the first half alone. It’s hard to overcome that but I thought our guys fought hard. We had a chance to tie it up at the end. We had some chances to take the lead.”
(On doing everything necessary to win) “We came out and really played a lot harder. To outrebound that team, it’s a hard thing to do. Again, what hurt us against that team, has hurt us in the past: we had 20 turnovers. You have to give them credit: they're a handsy team, they dig a lot. We went in there I think at times looking for contact as opposed to trying to finish the play.”
(On Terrence Jones in the rotation) “Terrence has played well. Terrence had 12 rebounds, 5 offensive rebounds. His activity level...he did a nice, he had a couple blocks. Terrence has been playing pretty well for us.”
Today was definitely a good lesson. Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end but we learned a lot and gained valuable experience going into the playoffs. We wanted to win obviously but I think we did some good things down the stretch. We gave them a couple different looks and a couple different plays – things we’ve been working on. Hopefully it will just prepare us for the future.
This one was very physical but we showed a lot of toughness and a lot of grit fighting back. They didn’t make anything easy for us and I really don’t think we made anything easy for them.
When things slow down and it’s an ugly, nitty-gritty, physical type of game we’ve got to find ways to pull these ones out. We’re not going to be able to score 105-to-125 points a game in the playoffs so we’re going to have to continue to build on some of the good things that we did today.
I think everybody got a glimpse of how the playoffs are going to be and it was good for us, a good learning experience. Obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but we can take some things from this game and tomorrow go over them and work on them a bit – that way, if we’re in this situation again, we can do a better job of executing.
We have a lot of confidence. Being down 19 and coming back, playing the right way, not scoring the ball tremendously well but relying on our defense to get us over the hump really helped us out and showed what we can do, especially on the defensive end. We get so much credit for our offense but when we want to lock-in and play defense, we’re a very good defensive team as well.
(difference between defense in first half and second?) Effort. Effort and playing hard. They kind of pushed us around in that first half, and in the second half we were a bit more physical. One of the main reasons we came up short was turnovers – I think I had eight or nine turnovers, so that gave them easy points. Take away some of those and it’s a different ball game. So good learning experience.
(On where this game ranked in terms of physical play being allowed) “Probably the top. They (Memphis) are a physical team, though. They are going to get some of those calls. That’s just how it is. We had a good chance. We put ourselves in position to go into overtime and make the right plays.”
(On whether or not this is the type of game the Rockets will likely see in the playoffs) “Yes, definitely. Playoff atmosphere, playoff team. They are a very good team that we played against. We can’t look to score 130 points a game. We’ve got to find ways to score when we don’t score 100 or 110 points. We’ve got to score 80 points to win games. Different type of game, but we still put ourselves in situations to win.”
(On the tough loss) “It was tough, being down so much, coming back and battling (back into the game). The game could have went either way and it went their way tonight.”
(On the play Terrence Jones) “T-Jones (Terrence Jones) is playing well. Like I said before, Jones knows that his minutes are coming now. He knows where they’re coming from and he’s taking advantage of the opportunity.”
(On the tough loss) “I think it was a well-fought game for us. It started off real slow for us to just fight and come back. This was a real good situation for us. We tried to fight through it, but we just have to move on to the next one.”
(On his play down the stretch) “I’m just trying to get extra possessions for my team. Whether it comes with me rebounding, or trying to dunk, or trying to get it out to one of my teammates, it’s just what I have to do.”
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES COACH LIONEL HOLLINS
(On the game) “It was a hard fought win. They (Rockets) shot 31% we shot 34%. It was just a tough, hard fought game. We played with a big lead and I told the them we needed to get off early and not get behind and we did that in the first quarter and we got our lead and we just didn’t focus good enough to keep the lead and Houston went small and started attacking us and they made some three's and were getting to the free throw line. We just hung in there and made some plays and made a couple of big defensive plays and got the win.”
(On the team’s defense against high-powered high offensive teams) “When the guys can score, we have to focus so much more. We have to change our lineups a lot. I had to play only one big and I played two some, but Houston was taking advantage of us. We even played four guards one time. We had Tayshaun (Prince) in there playing as the four and this like a lot of things we're going to see come the playoffs. Were going to have to match up and play that way. If we can’t score with our bigs then were going to have to defend with our smalls and that what we did tonight.”
(On snapping the losing streak in Houston) “Definitely it was on our mind but every time we came here it was on our minds so that wasn't anything new. We needed this win for many reasons and that was one of them.”
(On how the team’s defense on Harden change in the 4th quarter) “He is a good player and he has many ways he can score and he got more in the open court and to the free throw line. We tried to (not let him get to the rim) the entire game and sometimes offense beats defense and sometimes it’s the other way around. Luckily, we did a good job at the end and he had an open look and missed. I think he got the look he wanted at the end.”
(On the teams focus) “It was there for at least three quarters we had pretty good focus but in the fourth quarter we didn't do a good job, we were not as sharp executing as we should be at this point in the season that we're in. That carried to some mistakes defensively. You cannot let your offense affect your defense, it should be the other way around. We won the game and we'll take it and go home and get ready for tomorrow.”
(On the teams focus) “We knew coming in that we needed this win. All our guys had their focus up at the shoot around and it carried over to the game. Houston made a big comeback and we able to sustain the lead by getting key stops. We were a little out of whack for a stretch and me personally, I'm beating myself up for missing those two free throws but we got the W and this is a good win. All our guys came into this game saying we needed this win and we'll have to top it off tomorrow playing the Clippers.”
(On the team defense against James Harden) “We know James Harden is an All-Star. We were just trying to make it as tough for him as we can. He made some good shots down the stretch but I thought just the wear and tear from Tayshaun (Prince) being on him kind of fatigued him down the stretch of the game because he got an open look normally that he always nails and I think through the course of the game, me and Tayshaun were hard on him and made him work and kind of forced him to miss that shot.”
(On the game) “We came to the game with a good focus and this was a great team win. We got off to a great start and this is the NBA and teams are going to make runs and they made their runs and we sustained them. Definitely it felt good to win here. I can’t remember the last time I won a game here.”
Houston registered another sellout crowd of 18,163 for tonight’s game. Overall, the Rockets have 19 sellouts in 2012-13, including a sellout in nine of the last 14 outings at Toyota Center.
The Grizzlies escaped with an 82-78 win over the Rockets tonight, which came after Houston took a 19-point deficit in the game down to an even 78-78 with just 1:33 left in the game.
Houston had its 13-game home winning streak over the Grizzlies snapped tonight. It was Memphis’ first win in Houston since April 15, 2006, which saw a starting lineup of Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Eddie Jones, Chucky Atkins and Jake Tsakalidis for the Grizzlies.
The Rockets matched their season low of 78 points (78 on 3/17/13 vs. Golden State), while setting new season lows in field goals made and field goal percentage (.311, 23-74 FG).
Houston grabbed 51 rebounds tonight, giving the Rockets nine 50-plus rebounding games on the season (Rockets record: 6-3).
Memphis had just seven turnovers tonight, which included no giveaways in the first quarter. It matched Houston’s opponent season low of seven set by the Raptors at Toronto (12/16/12).
The Rockets netted just 15 points on 5-of-16 (.313 FG) shooting in the first quarter tonight. It was Houston’s second lowest offensive output in an opening quarter this season (10 in first on 3/17/13 vs. Golden State). Houston then held Memphis to just 15 points in the third quarter to pull to within five points.
James Harden registered 30 points (7-24 FG, 5-10 3FG, 11-14 FT), seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots. He is just the seventh NBA player to reach those totals in a single game this season. Harden also had 31 points (9-13 FG, 3-3 3FG, 10-12 FT), eight assists and three steals in the last home game vs. Memphis (12/22/12).
Jeremy Lin collected 17 points (5-13 FG, 5-6 FT), five boards and five assists tonight, which marked his fifth game this season of at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Rockets were 4-0 in his first four such games this season.
Terence Jones finished with seven points (3-7 FG), a career-high-tying 12 rebounds (5 offensive) and two blocked shots. Jones posted his first career double-double with a career-best 14 points (6-11 FG), a career-high 12 rebounds (8 offensive) and two steals at Sacramento (4/3/13).
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 15 points (5-13 FG, 5-6 FT), 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks tonight. Gasol is looking to become just the fourth NBA player listed at 7-1 or taller to average at least 14 points, four assists and one block per game in a single season.
Zach Randolph also had a team-high-tying 15 points (5-12 FG) and eight boards tonight.
Mike Conley totaled 12 points (4-14 FG), seven boards, five assists and two steals tonight. Conley came into this contest averaging a career-high 2.25 steals (third in NBA).
Jerryd Bayless added 13 points (5-14 FG) off the bench. Bayless came into tonight averaging 15.8 points on .458 shooting (.373 3FG shooting) over the prior 12 games played.