Recap: Rockets at Grizzlies, December 30, 2011

Saturday December 31, 2011 0:39 AM

Grizzlies Take Bite Out Of Rockets

Memphis dominates down low, sends Houston to 113-93 defeat

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - As soon as the NBA announced this year’s schedule, it was a given that every team in the league would be confronted with the occasional game that would likely conspire to doom them to defeat. Be it due to dead legs, lack of prep time or something other, there appeared to be no means of escaping the harsh realities of such a compressed calendar.

Friday night it would seem, the Rockets got bit by that particular bogey. Then the Memphis Grizzlies made matters much worse for them by taking a big bite of their own.

Yes, the Rockets were a step slow and the Grizzlies were simply too good Friday evening as Memphis cruised to a 113-93 victory. Just one night after Houston pounded the Spurs by the exact same margin, the Grizzlies returned the favor thanks to a punishing interior game centered around their pillars of power, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Rockets has no answer for either one, as they combined for 43 points and 17 rebounds while posting an eye-popping 17-of-22 shooting mark from the field. Their dominance went a long way in lifting the Grizzlies to a 56-36 advantage in points scored in the paint and undoing many of the good vibes the Rockets had felt after displaying such significant defensive improvement 24 hours earlier.

Just how much Houston’s breakdowns had to do with fatigue as opposed to Memphis’ excellent execution or even just the Rockets’ still-nascent grasp of their defensive game plan is difficult to say. As with most things of that ilk, the truth likely lies within some combination thereof.

The Grizzlies came into Friday night’s contest desperate for their first win of the season and played like it. With the game still closely contested at the start of the third quarter, Memphis harkened back to its Grind House days of last season’s playoffs, wreaking havoc by creating turnovers, controlling the paint and getting easy buckets. On the last point, however, the Rockets made doing so all too easy for the Grizzlies, frequently allowing Memphis free rein to venture forth on encumbered forays to the basket. The end result: a 31-16 third quarter advantage for the Grizzlies that essentially put the game out of reach for Houston.

If there was a bright side to such a lopsided defeat, it likely exists in the fact that no Rockets starter played more than 27 minutes, ensuring fresher legs for the final game of Houston’s lone back-to-back-to-back this season while also providing more playing time for some of the club’s younger, less experienced players. Chandler Parsons, in particular, made the most of those minutes, showing off savvy beyond his years while producing 13 points and 6 rebounds; especially impressive given the fact he, like all NBA rookies, is being forced to play catch-up at the speed of sound after missing out on an opportunity to take part in summer league and much of Houston’s truncated training camp. Savvier still, Parsons understands that there is no time for excuses – not for him or his team – and that the best way he and his teammates can respond to Friday’s defeat and any feelings of fatigue is by closing out 2011 with a win over the Atlanta Hawks on New Year’s Eve at Toyota Center.

“We’ve been doing this our whole life and we’ve been used to playing basketball back-to-back whether it’s been AAU or college so there’s no excuses,” he said. “We’ve just got to come out every night and be prepared to play for 48 minutes and we can’t expect to play like that on the defensive end and expect to win games.”



On the bench play:
“We’ve got to be able to tighten up our defense. I told everybody, I play 10 guys. If everybody has one or two defensive mistakes that’s 20 defensive mistakes that we can’t live with. Our weak side was hugged up. Tonight was an odd night. Last night we were really engaged defensively and were really protecting the paint. Tonight we weren’t. This is a team where you have got to really protect the paint even more, and we just weren’t able to do that. They got to the line too much, and they got the ball inside.”

On Marc Gasol (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (23 points, 9 rebounds):
“Anytime you have (Zach) Randolph or (Marc) Gasol go 17-of-22 you are going to have major issues. We started off the game and Z-Bo made some shots that we didn’t want him to make, those long jump shots, and he just got on a roll. We couldn’t stop him.”

On Jonny Flynn (8 points, 4 assists)
“He played well. He has been playing well in practice and I wanted to give him a chance. I knew I was going to play Goran (Dragic) more too, but I wanted to let Jonny get out there and see what he could do.”


On playing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph:
“I think as guards we should help our big men. They had their hands full tonight given that those two are really great players. They definitely wore down our defense tonight.”

On tomorrow’s game:
“Hopefully, I can go out there tomorrow and get some energy from the jump. I know that they are coming off of back-to-back also. Two games in two nights, we knew we were going to have one. Hopefully, the guys are mentally prepared for it.”

On playing the Grizzlies:
“They played well. They were hungry to get a win. It showed that they were hungry to get a win tonight. I just try to play basketball. It’s my job to try to lead my team no matter where I am playing.”


On the loss:
“We didn’t go in with the defensive focus. Now we realize that we have got to focus on defense. We have just got to do a good job. We didn’t get the loose balls, we didn’t box our men out and there were too many easy baskets. Our weak side wasn’t able to protect the basket. They are mistakes that we will watch on the film tomorrow, and we will get prepared.”

On playing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph:
“You are looking for those guys. Their offense is focused on those guys. Every time they want it they are looking. We cannot just sit down and relax. We didn’t come back and do the same. We should have come back with Luis (Scola) and put some pressure on those guys the way they put the pressure on us.”

On when the team will gel with the new players:
“I wish I could predict it. We had a good game yesterday and had a terrible game today. We just have to learn from it. We learn from the highs, and we learn from the lows. We just need to go out there, mature as a player, do what is right, and win games.”


On playing a back-to-back:
“It is definitely tough. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. I’m used to playing basketball back-to-back whether it has been AAU or college so there is no excuse. We have just got to come out and play 48 minutes. We can’t come out and play like that and expect to win games.”

On the Southwest Division:
“It’s very tough. There is not going to be an easy night. That is throughout the whole league, especially, in our division. Like I said we just have to continue to get better every day and come out and dog fight for 48 minutes because nothing is going to be easy.”


On the win:
“First of all, they (Rockets) played last night. You have to give them their due and be honest about the game. (Luis) Scola and (Kyle) Lowry both got into foul trouble which limited their playing time on the court. From that perspective, I was glad with what our defense was doing. We were really focused. I think at one time we had five stops in a row. We were consistent, we were focused, and we were talking. That’s the best defense I’ve seen Zach (Randolph) play since he’s been here. And it’s not just playing defense, but being aware of what they’re doing and what we’re trying to do as far as a game plan is concerned. They’re a very tough team to play against. They just put the ball on the floor and attack and they throw it to a guy to make an open shot. We just kept battling. We beat them on the boards. We beat them on the paint. We quit turning the ball over and started getting stuff to the basket. We just executed very well, and I thought our ball movement was really good.

On playing the perimeter:
“We tried to add more perimeter people. Western Conference is really perimeter. Everyone you play is really small, and if you don’t have enough perimeter players to match up to them then you’re sitting out there basically trying to play zone. We were able to match up and then take advantage of them. Quincy (Pondexter) did a nice job. He scored 13 points and then did a nice job on defense and got some help. We’re doing things now that it takes to be a good team. We just have to keep working on it. We got one win, and we can’t be satisfied and just slip back. We just have to keep going forward.”

On Josh Selby:
“I’m surprised at his composure and poise. I know he can score and attack the basket. I know he can do some crazy things. He has great body control and finishes very well around the basket. To be able to play out front and stay with what we’re doing offensively, he’s done a nice job of trying to learn what he’s supposed to do and of not trying to do too much. That’s what a young player usually does—he usually gets out of control and starts playing too fast. He hasn’t done that, but we have a long way to go. Maybe he won’t hit the wall because it’s a shortened season, but I like what I’ve seen out of him thus far.”


On his defensive play:
“That’s what I’m trying to focus on, a better defensive game, helping guys out and being in the right position. I think being in better shape and putting your mind to it that as you come out you focus on it. Not just the offensive end, but the defensive end. Also, there’s getting stops and being in the right position to help guys out when they get beaten.”

“I’m coming out with a defensive mind every game. I want to come out and block shots. Defense wins games. I can score with the best of them and I can rebound with the best of them. If I’m good on defense it’s going to be a trickledown effect. Everybody will get to playing defense and it will be the best.”

On the Grizzlies’ bench:
“I think it’s big. In this league, you have to have a strong bench. If you look at everyone that’s on a winning team they have strong bench players. We have guys that can come in and play. We have O.J. (Mayo) and (Jeremy) Pargo that can come in and play. We’re strong. We have Sam (Young), too. Once we get our chemistry of guys and everyone finds their roles and understand what they have to do, we’ll be better.”

On the Grizzlies’ play:
“Our game is in the paint. We go in the paint and get the inside-outside. We need to get back to it and understand what we have to do. That’s how we won games last year.”


On his first start:
“I’m good. We got a win, that’s the biggest goal. I’m happy with that.”

On the win:
“It’s coming on. It’s not easy to gel in such a short time. There are quite a few new guys, including myself. We’re learning as we go. It was a short training camp and we’re learning on the fly. I think we played well overall. There were stretches we gave up some things we didn’t want to give up. Then, we came out with a big victory and we’ll take it.”

On Josh Selby:
“Josh played well. That’s one thing we talk about all of the time, taking advantage of opportunities. He had an opportunity to come in and play well, and I’m happy for him.”

On the next game against the Bulls:
“I’m looking forward to a good game and playing our hearts out, out there. Nothing is going to come easy. They’re not going to give up anything easily.”

On the Grizzlies:
“I wanted to come in and help. It’s a goal of ours to get that ball in the paint. That paint battle is a big one. Guys like Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) work hard. The guards go out there and do our best to win that battle at the end of the night. I just want to continue to play hard and work as a team. I want to fit in with the team.”


On his individual play and fitting in with the team:
“I don’t care about anything as an individual. I’ve never been like that. I might get frustrated with that if I let my teammates down. As long as our team is winning games, I’m happy. I get furious when we’re not. We have to do whatever it takes to win games. My confidence is coming. I’m still a young guy in this league. I’m finding my way and getting used to playing with the guys. We have a lot of talent around here in the locker room. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay are all All-Stars, and Mike Conley. They’re great players. If I can fit in and chip in, in some way, I’ll do whatever it takes, especially on the defensive end.”

On joining the Grizzlies after training camp:
“It’s been tough. In New Orleans, those couple weeks of training camp I learned every position and every play for the Hornets. The eve of the season starting I had to learn a whole new playbook and get acclimated to playing with a new team. At the same time, it’s been a blessing. I think this team is going to be really great this season. I have been following (the Grizzlies) for a while.”

On his playing time:
“Most games, I go in thinking I’m not going to play at all. Whatever the guys ask me to do, I’m happy to do it. I’m glad I got to play as much as I did. I’m glad I got to contribute to the win as best as I can. I bring a lot of defensive prowess. I have a heart for the game. I know the game really well. You could probably compare me to one of the guys that played here last year, Shane Battier. He was the glue guy and tried to do everything he could. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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