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Friday March 30, 2012 11:57 PM

Rockets Grind Way Past Grizz

Houston goes wire-to-wire to record 98-89 win over Memphis

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - The game plan against the Grizzlies is well known: Pack the paint, limit their second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass and, perhaps most importantly of all, don’t feed their transition attack a heaping helping of turnovers.

The Rockets came into Friday night’s matchup with Memphis all too aware of those rules of engagement. Then they spent a significant portion of the evening ignoring them, giving up 60 points in the paint, conceding a whopping 23 offensive rebounds and coughing up the ball up 16 times.

So what was Houston’s punishment for failing to keep the Grizzlies’ rough-and-tumble strengths in hibernation? Nothing less than a thrilling, much-needed, wire-to-wire 98-89 win over Memphis that catapulted the Rockets up to a tie for the 7th seed in the jam-packed Western Conference playoff race.

Yes, Houston found a way to stand firm in the face of the Grizzlies’ interior bludgeoning by responding with some timely execution and an ample amount of true toughness of their own. And surely no one provided a greater example of that spirit than Marcus Camby, who started in place of an under the weather Samuel Dalembert and came up aces, scoring 7 points to go along with a game-high 16 rebounds, 6 blocked shots and a pair of massively important put-backs late in the game to ensure the Rockets came away with the win.

That the 16-year center would rise to the occasion when his team needed him most comes as no surprise given his pedigree and well-earned reputation as a consummate professional. But to see him do so with what amounts to merely one fully functional hand due to the torn ligaments in his left wrist was nothing short of astounding.

“It’s tough,” he admitted, when asked about the difficult of playing with his injury. “Every time the ball touches it, it hurts. But right now this is our playoffs. I can't afford to sit out. We have a shortage of guys and a shortage of big guys as it is. So, pretty much, I’m just gutting it out and just trying to play aggressive and helping my team follow suit.”

His teammates most definitely responded. Goran Dragic (25 points, 7 assists) and Courtney Lee (17 points) were dynamite right from the opening tip, igniting the Rockets to an early run that allowed them to build a lead that ballooned to as many as 17 points early in the second quarter. And when Memphis made their inevitable rally by wreaking havoc on the offensive glass and generating a bevy of turnovers, Houston never panicked and patiently put together an emphatic response of its own.

The Rockets countered the Grizzlies’ dominance down low the only way they know how: with execution and brisk ball movement, the result of which was a strong shooting performance from behind the arc where Houston connected on 7 of its 14 attempts. Chase Budinger came off the bench to drain three of those triples himself – his first game with more than one 3-pointer made in nearly two weeks.

“The last couple days in practice I was focusing more on my mechanics and my shot,” said Budinger, who finished the game with 13 points and 4 rebounds. “I just really went back to the basics and just really got that shot back in practice by repetition. I went out there confident in tonight’s game and was able to knock them down.”

Budinger’s final triple of the game came with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, staking Houston to a 91-83 lead. The Grizzlies, however, continued to claw their way back and a Marc Gasol layup – off an offensive rebound, of course – brought Memphis back within six with 1:22 remaining. But that simply set the stage for Camby’s last minute heroics as he first tipped in a Patrick Patterson miss before following that up with another put-back the next time down the floor to cement a Rockets win that earned them a 2-2 split in their season series with the Grizzlies.

“Memphis is a team we are going to have to beat out for this playoff position,” said Camby. “That's all we've been talking about since shoot around this morning, how important this game was. We came out with the right mindset, got the big lead. Like all NBA teams, they (Grizzlies) made their run but our team showed a lot of poise. We withheld their run and made a run of our own and going down the stretch we were able to make some plays to seal the victory.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(On the Grizzlies) “They're tough. You know, they come in and if you look at it Rudy Gay gets a rebound, Marc Gasol gets four (rebounds), (Marreese) Speights gets three, Tony Allen gets four,  (Hamed) Haddadi gets four. You know, we just kept fighting. They (Grizzlies) dirtied up and muddied up the game. We just got to be really strong with the ball. There were points that we were just throwing the ball away too much.”

(On the Rockets shooting) “They (Grizzlies) put a lot of pressure on you and they really come after you hard. So, you are going to have to be careful with the ball. You are going to have to find the open guy because they're all open guys. They really over committed tonight. There were a couple times where they over committed and Courtney (Lee) got a chance to attack the basket.”

Marcus is just a wily old pro who loves to compete, loves the game, so it’s just really good to have him.

CHASE BUDINGER

Last couple days in practice I was focusing more on my mechanics and my shot. I just really went back to the basics and just really got that shot back in practice by repetition. I went out there confident in tonight’s game and was able to knock them down.

(on the team’s execution): We’ve been running through our offense (in practice), making hard cuts, getting everybody into the right places, so that when we do carry that over into games we run it the right way.

MARCUS CAMBY

I was just scrapping. If you go twenty times you might not get (any) in this league because guys are boxing you out and trying to find you. But if you’re persistent sometimes things will open up for you and they opened up those last two possessions.

(how tough to rebound with one hand): It’s tough. Every time the ball touches it, it hurts. But this is our playoffs right now and I can’t afford to sit down. My team needs me to be a leader out there and that’s what I try to do.

(Ok, playing this many minutes?): I’ve been a starter my whole career. Coming here, coming off the bench, I pride myself on being a team player; whatever it takes to win ball games.

(On the big win) “Memphis is a team we are going to have to beat out for this playoff position and that's all we've been talking about since shoot around this morning, how important this game was. We came out with the right mindset, got the big lead. Like all NBA teams, they (Grizzlies) made their run but our team showed a lot of poise. We withheld their run and made a run of our own and going down the stretch we were able to make some plays to seal the victory.”

(On him playing with an injured wrist) “Right now this is our playoffs. I can't afford to sit out. We have a shortage of guys and a shortage of big guys as it is. So, pretty much, just gutting it out and just trying to play aggressive and helping my team follow suit.”

It was definitely important to get this win. I felt as a group we came out with the right mindset. We withstood their run, made a run of our own and were able to make some key stops down the stretch.

COURTNEY LEE

(On how the Rockets played in the second half) “We were able to come back home after the Dallas game and get some rest. A lot of guys were playing a lot of minutes. We were able to come out here and drop on them early. We continued to fight throughout the whole game and make plays throughout the whole game.”

(On Marcus Camby's play in the final stretch of the game) “It was huge. They (Grizzlies) were going on a little run and every time he tipped the ball in, got the rebound and scored, it kept stretching our lead, so that was huge. He stepped up big for us in the end.”

GORAN DRAGIC

(On Marcus Camby's rebounds in the 4th quarter) “Those were huge. He had two huge rebounds and tip-ins. He is one of those guys who is very important for our team, especially in the paint. When guards penetrate, he blocks shots. He gets rebounds and today I think that he won that game. He came up with two huge offensive rebounds and put them back in and that is why we won that game.”

(On the importance of the win) “We are right there with the Memphis Grizzlies battling for that spot for the playoffs. It was a huge win for us. We played really well in the first quarter. We lost only one ball then in the second quarter we made some mistakes, especially turning the ball over and they (Grizzlies) came right back but we were fighting. We knew that they were a really good defensive team. They pressure the ball and they make turnovers and score some easy layups but in the end, luckily, we were defending good. We played smart on offense.”

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES COACH LIONEL HOLLINS

(On the key to the game) “Shooting 37 percent, we had 94 shots, 23 offensive rebounds, one from fifteen at the three-point line that was our one biggest problem. The next problem we had was down the stretch we couldn’t get an offensive rebound or stops and they got the offensive rebounds and the put backs. We started the game off and put ourselves in a huge hole down seventeen and we battled back. We never could get over the hump completely. The Rockets did a nice job of making a bucket just about every time they needed to make one. They made shots; sometimes three-point shooters are open. We had a lot of three point shots, but we didn’t make them. That’s the game of basketball, you have to make shots”

“They started him and he had 16 rebounds, what can you say he is a very good player and he has been a great addition to their team.”

RUDY GAY

(On the game) “We got stops in the first half, but we didn’t in the second half. We finished off the plays in the first half, but we did not finish plays off in the second half. It was very frustrating it’s very tough when you are playing up hill the whole game. Sometimes you win those games, but most of the time you don’t. It’s really tough; you can’t just do that every night. You can’t fight that hard and not sustain your play for 48 minutes”

(On Marcus Camby addition to the Rockets) “Obviously he is a defensive presence, he’s been defensive player of the year and he knows exactly how to position against all the guys inside, he’s another line of defense and they already have had a good defensive team. He fits right in with their style.”

TONY ALLEN

(On his teams play) “They (Rockets) started off hot and that gave their team confidence and it looked like they wanted it more than we did. We had our chances, we tied it up a few times, but we just couldn’t get a stop when we needed to. We couldn’t get a key stop or a key rebound or a key loose ball, or whatever down the stretch. They showed they wanted it more than we did. It’s going to be a battle for the rest of the season. I think we have to be more alert on the defensive end of the court and everybody has to be tied together.”

MIKE CONLEY

(On the game) “Houston did a good job on the offensive rebounds, we had good looks, they got some big offensive rebounds from (Marcus) Camby and those are the kind of plays that win games and we did not have enough of them.

(On Houston’s back court play) “They (Rockets) did a great job of penetrating and trying to get into the paint and creating for everybody else. (Goran) Dragic did a good job of stopping behind screens and knocking down shots and those were big plays for them.”

NOTES

The Rockets hit .521 (38-73 FG) from the field to help fuel a 98-89 win over the Grizzlies tonight, evening the season series at 2-2. Overall, Houston now holds a 12-game home winning streak over the Grizzlies (last loss on 4/15/06). It stands as Memphis’ longest active losing streak, either home or away, against any single opponent.

Houston held the Grizzlies to 35-of-94 (.372) from the field, just 1-of-15 (.067) from beyond the arc and an opponent season-low 10 assists tonight. The Rockets now stand a perfect 7-0 this season when the opponent shoots .399 or less.

The Rockets opened on a 9-0 run tonight never trailed in this game. Memphis returned from 17 points down and managed to tie the contest on four occasions, but never held a lead. It was the third time this season that Houston never gave up the lead (12/29/11 vs. San Antonio and 12/31/11 vs. Atlanta).

Houston is now 16-0 this season when keeping their opponent below 90 points. Overall, Houston has recorded 28 consecutive victories when holding an opponent under 90 points.

Goran Dragic finished with his best point total as a member of the Rockets by scoring a team-high 25 points (9-14 FG, 3-5 3FG, 4-5 FT) and handing out a game-high seven assists. His previous best was 24 points (7-14 FG, 5-6 FT, 5-7 3FG) vs. Dallas (3/24/12). Dragic, who has now reached double-figure scoring in a career-high 14 straight outings (3/6/12-3/30/12), has five 20-point games on the season.

Courtney Lee added 17 points (7-12 FG) and two steals tonight. Lee has now netted double-digit point totals in four consecutive games (3/24/12-3/30/12).

Chase Budinger recorded 13 points (5-8 FG, 3-4 FG) and four rebounds off the bench tonight, helping the Rockets to a 7-of-14 (.500) night from downtown.

Luis Scola, who had 11 points (5-8 FG) and three boards tonight, surpassed Kevin Kunnert (2,891) into ninth on the Rockets all-time list for most career rebounds with his second board tonight.

Marcus Camby, who recorded his first double-digit rebounding game with the Rockets by grabbing 11 boards vs. Dallas (3/24/12), made his first start with Houston tonight. Camby finished with seven points (2-5 FG), a game-high 16 rebounds (13 defensive), two steals and six of Houston’s nine blocked shots.

Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 20 points (9-19 FG) tonight. Gay has now scored 20 or more points in 24 of the last 39 games played. Overall, Memphis is 17-8 this season when he reaches 20 points. Tonight’s contest also marked Gay’s 420th with Memphis, surpassing Shane Battier (419) for third on the Grizzlies all-time games played list.

Marc Gasol posted 19 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT), team-high nine boards and two blocks tonight.

Tony Allen had 15 points (5-15 FG, 5-6 FT), seven boards and three steals tonight, leading Memphis to 13-steal performance.

O.J. Mayo also netted 15 points (5-13 FG), a team-high four assists and two steals tonight. Mayo has now scored double figures off the bench 33 times this season.

Dante Cunningham suffered a right ankle sprain and did not return to tonight’s game.

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