A Triumphant return: Three takeaways from Wednesday’s 130-125 loss to the Grizzlies

Mar 22, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) adjust his face mask as he checks into the game during the first half against the Houston Rockets at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

A Triumphant return: Three takeaways from Wednesday’s 130-125 loss to the Grizzlies

Ja Morant scored 17 points in his return from an eight-game suspension as the Rockets started their five-game road trip with a 130-125 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Morant came off the bench to shoot 6-of-13 from the field, but more importantly, the Grizzlies were +13 in his 17 minutes. Jalen Green’s 32 points led the Rockets, K.J. Martin added a career-high 31, while Kevin Porter Jr. finished with the second triple-double of his career.

Alperen Sengun plays well through early foul trouble

Sengun committed his first foul with 10:23 left in the first quarter trying to challenge a Tyus Jones floater. 10 seconds later, he was whistled for an illegal screen, but instead of sitting him, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas elected to allow Sengun to play through the foul trouble, and his decision paid off. Sengun did not pick up another foul the rest of the first half and scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

The Rockets center only picked up one additional foul while playing 19 minutes in the second and third quarters, though he did foul out late after picking up three fouls in the fourth. He still finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steaks while shooting 11-of-15 after missing Monday’s game against the Warriors due to an illness.

Avoiding fouls has been a big area of growth for Sengun in his second NBA season. He committed 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes as a rookie, but this season that number has dropped to 4.3.

Jalen Green looks the part

Seeing Ja Morant on the other end of the floor seems to bring out the best in Jalen Green. He scored 33 points against the Grizzlies the first time the two teams met in October, and he put up 20 in limited minutes in his second game back from the groin injury early this month. He scored 32 points while shooting 10-of-18 on Wednesday. He got the Rockets’ offense going by scoring 11 points in the first quarter, and he put up eight in the third.

It’s easy to make comparisons between Morant and Green. Both players are high-flying guards who were taken with the second pick of their respective drafts, and Green said after that game in October he believes he’s on the same level as the Grizzlies star.

Jaren Jackson Jr dominates

The Grizzlies All-Star and Defensive Player of the year dominated the Rockets on the defensive end of the floor when he blocked five shots three weeks ago at Toyota Center as the Rockets were limited to 46% shooting on shots in the paint for just 46 points, but on this night, Jackson dominated the Rockets on the offensive end of the floor.

Jackson scored a season-high 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting. He only shot 1-of-5 from behind the 3-point line, but the Rockets had trouble keeping off the foul line as he matched a season-high with 11 free throw attempts.

Jackson didn’t have the same impact on the defensive end of the floor. He blocked two shots, but the Rockets still scored 58 points in the paint, 11 more than what the Grizzlies give up on the season, while shooting 62% on shots in the lane.

Next up

The Rockets will continue their five-game road trip when they play a rematch in Memphis against the Grizzlies on Friday night.

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