The Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies hit the court on Monday night in Houston for their third match-up of the season. This was a back-to-back game for Houston as they traveled from Orlando to Houston on Sunday evening after they tossed the game up to a 7 point deficit, 116-109. Harden shot an atrocious 1/17 from the 3 point arc, but still managed to score 38 points. In Chris Paul's absence, Austin Rivers managed to drop 25 points, his season-high since becoming a Rocket on Christmas Eve.
On a side note, Rivers followed Chris Paul's footsteps as he inked a contract with the Rockets after being waived by the Suns. Paul was his teammate from 2013-2016 under the head of Doc Rivers in L.A., and it seems he feels quite comfortable playing in his shadow.
Houston came into the game without Paul (hamstring), Gordon (knee), and Clint Capela who injured his thumb just last night against the Magic. The Rockets weren't able to practice in between the games so they had to wing the game without their big man. Nenê got the start at the center position but Coach D'Antoni made it clear that he would be capped at 16 minutes because of the lack of depth in their rotation.
James Harden put the first two points on the board for his team which forged the path to his 57 point performance. At times, he looked like a ball hog as his teammates were wide open elsewhere and he confidently took a contested shot. But, the man knocks down enough shots, so his selfish play can be justified. James had numerous hot streaks throughout the game and scored a season-high 36 points heading into the half. He improved from his last outing from deep and hit 6-15 in this game.
Bickerstaff put a double team on Harden as the third quarter got underway, which opened up opportunities for Gerald Green and Austin Rivers to put their name on the board. It also forced Harden to pick up some assists, which he cannot complain about as that's the stat he lacks the least of.
Gerald Green finished the game with 14 points, most of which came on a third quarter hot streak. Austin Rivers made a couple beautiful takeaways which he or his teammate converted. Rivers finished the game with 11 points, 3 steals, and 6 assists. Danuel House Jr. scored the second most on his team with 15 points, shooting 50% on the night.
Gary Clark picked up some minutes tonight and showed Coach D'Antoni his worth as he he made 3 of 4 field goals for 8 points, with a steal and a block. Houston played small ball for nearly the whole game as they didn't enlist trust and confidence in Hartenstein who was called up from the G-League.
Mike Conley had an incredibly slow start to the game and his track record indicates he doesn't care for playing in the Toyota Center. Conley didn't drain his first basket until the 7 minute mark in the third quarter. But, he managed to score 14, with 7 rebounds, and 7 assists which put him on the top of each category on the teams weak-performed night.
Omri Casspi hit a pair of wide open three pointers with his unorthodox shooting form. The Rockets then became smart and didn't leave him open beyond the arc as they realized the only way he could convert a three pointer was if he had time and was open. Casspi finished the game with 12 points and a pair of steals.
The 1st round draft pick out of Michigan State, Jackson Jr., had a solid performance. He blocked three of the Rockets shots and put up 12 points while collecting 6 rebounds. JaMychal Green came of the bench last night and spaced the floor very well for the Grizzlies. He scored 9 points, picked up 4 boards, and dished 3 assists.
Memphis really spread out their scoring opportunities and didn't concentrate the ball in the hands of one player like the Rockets did. Their downfall was the amount of turnovers they gave up with 24 relative to the Rockets 13. The Grizzlies will hit the court next on Wednesday when they host the Bucks.
Houston picked up a well deserved victory and will get a days rest before hosting the Nets on Wednesday and the Lakers on a nationally broadcasted event on Saturday. In the meantime, one of Houston's big men on the bench like Hartenstein or Chriss should step-up in order to solidify a position in the roster as opposed to being sent back down to the D-League.