The Grizzlies got their first win of the season in convincing fashion at home, beating the Houston Rockets by 20 points 113-93. It looked like there was going to be a close contest in FedExForum after the first quarter, as there were 8 lead changes in the first quarter alone. However, the Grizzlies made sure that no more lead changes would happen after Josh Selby drove the length of the floor and made a layup to put the Grizz up by two with little more than a second left on the game clock to end the first quarter.
The grit and grind that fans grew accustomed to watching during last year’s run was evident throughout the game. Coach Hollins made his game plan clear early on. Pound the ball inside, and give your star big men a chance to do some serious damage. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dominated inside offensively and defensively, combining for 43 points and 17 rebounds while holding Luis Scola and Samuel Dalembert to just 8 points. Gasol tied a career high in blocks with five, and Z-Bo’s defense was the best that head coach Lionel Hollins has ever seen him play. “I can’t agree with that,” Randolph said laughing at his coach’s comments about his defensive play. The two starting big men for the Grizzlies outscored the entire Rockets team in the paint, as Houston was only able to score 36 points.
Yet grit and grind was not the only style the Grizzlies showed us during this game. When Gasol and/or Randolph were on the bench Memphis looked more like a flash and finesse team, with Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby pushing the ball. The tempo increased and the Grizz looked to run every chance they got. Dante Cunningham played extremely well (filling in for Darrell Arthur), logging 19 minutes and bringing some much needed energy off of the bench. Memphis went to a full court press with him in the game and this gave Houston fits. The press took the ball out of the Rockets’ point guards’ hands, disrupting their offense and forcing them to take poor shots. Other bench players also contributed to this up-tempo style of play. O.J. Mayo had 10 points off of the bench, and Quincy Pondexter (or Q-Pon as we like to call him here at MemphiSport) added a much needed 13 points. The bench played so well that Coach Hollins was able to rest Gasol and Randolph for almost all of the fourth quarter. Memphis will need similar production from their role players if they want to go deep into the playoffs this year.
Although Memphis dominated the game, the Grizzlies did have two glaring issues, scoring and guarding the three point line. They did not make a single three and allowed Houston to score 33 points from long distance. This is in issue that must be fixed if the Grizzlies are going to make it deep into the playoffs, because you cannot be outscored 33-0 from three and expect to win many games. When asked why his team struggled from behind the arch Coach Hollins simply stated, “We do not have any three point shooters. You have to have shooters to make threes and we do not have any. It is as simple as that.”
Overall this was an impressive win against a team in the division that has given Memphis problems in the past. They will need to carry this momentum into their next game on Sunday against the reigning MVP and the Chicago Bulls if they expect to get their second win of the season. Team grit and grind is back, but this flash and finesse unit coming off of the bench looks pretty good too.
CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum all season.