NBA 2018-19: 3 talking points from Houston Rockets' win over Memphis Grizzlies
This potential playoff match-up between Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies was as good a reflection of their present form as anything. The match was a nice stroll down the future lane, as Marc Gasol had his way with Clint Capela in the paint, Jaren Jackson Jr continued to look like this draft's steal, and James Harden had his way with the referees.
Memphis are the most pleasant surprise package of the NBA by far, and no one except those who knows how good Gasol and Mike Conley are could have predicted that. The Grizzlies haven't actually missed the playoffs in the past couple of seasons except last year, when they favored tanking for a lottery pick after Conley got injured.
Meanwhile, the Rockets are something of a worst-case scenario, where the team that retained its core of three stars has somehow ended up ruing letting go its role players like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. The Rockets sit at a dispiriting 14-14, finally having reached that oasis of .500 land when Harden exploded for a 50-point triple double against the Lakers (even more unbelievable is the 19 Free Throws Attempted stat line).
Here's three talking points about the game yesterday:
1) The Grizzlies polish their reputation
Memphis are the grit and grind team of the league.
The Rockets won 107-95, but the final score belied the game. The Grizzlies tied down Houston's hands at the beginning of the third quarter and cut a 21 point deficit to 7 points. They went for their typical grind games, toughening their defense and exposing the unreliability of Houston's "statistical advantage" by making the Rockets' players take threes at a sad conversion rate.
The Grizzlies closed passing lanes into the paint, forcing the Rockets into missed shots and turnovers at a good (for Memphis) rate to get back into the game (sort of). And Gasol went to work on Capela early in the first half.
Mike Conley Jr continued his silent path on the high road to an All Star Game nomination as he suffocated Paul's presence, who still finished with 10 assists. Conley finished with 22 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds.