Mar 24, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) reacts during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockets have lost four in a row after an embarrassing 151-114 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Memphis scored more than 40 points in the game’s first two quarters and trailed by as many as 41. Luke Kennard scored 30 points off the bench for the Grizzlies, converting on 10-of-11 three-pointers as the Grizzlies shot 25-of-42 from long distance on the night. The Rockets were led by Tari Eason’s 21 points off the bench.
An embarrassing first half
The Rockets have been playing their best basketball of the season in the month of March, and they played well despite losing the last three games, which included a five-point loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, but they did not carry it over to the rematch. The Grizzlies hit them for 83 points in the first half and led by 31 at the break.
Memphis did anything it wanted against the Rockets’ defense in the game’s first 24 minutes. The Grizzlies scored 17 fast break points on the way to a 42-point first quarter, and then they were shredded by Ja Morant and Desmond Bane while allowing 41 points in the second quarter. Morant and Bane combined for 23 points in the quarter, compared to 22 by the entire Rockets team, on 9-of-11 shooting.
Things really didn’t improve after halftime. The Grizzlies “only” scored 68 points, but they still shot 63% from the field in what amounted to 24 minutes of garbage time.
Losing the minutes with Ja Morant on the bench
Entering Friday’s game, the Grizzlies had torched the Rockets with Morant on the floor and struggled while he was on the bench. Memphis outscored the Rockets by 49 points in the 82 minutes Morant was in the game, and Houston outscored the Grizzlies by 23 in the 62 minutes he was out. Per usual, the Grizzlies dominated the minutes Morant was on the floor, winning his 19 minutes by 30 points, but they also won the stretches while he was on the bench.
In his second game back from suspension, Morant came off the bench as he did Wednesday. He entered the game for the first time with 5:04 left in the first quarter, with the Grizzlies leading by 24-18. They stretched the lead to 23 when he checked out with 5:34 left in the second, and Memphis outscored the Rockets by eight as Morant sat the rest of the half.
Dillon Brooks’ return makes life tough on Jalen Green
Brooks was suspended for Wednesday’s game after hitting the 18 technical foul threshold, and Green scored 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but Green was held in check with Brooks, the Grizzlies’ best perimeter back on the floor.
The Rockets guard was limited to 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting, with Brooks as his primary defender. Green had trouble getting in the paint, and after attempting nine free throws without Brooks out there, he only took two shots from the charity on Friday.
The Rockets will continue their five-game road trip when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.