Asik, bench lead Rockets past Grizzlies

Asik, bench lead Rockets past Grizzlies
November 26, 2013, 2:00 pm
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(Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into Monday night’s game, The Grizzlies had won five consecutive games against the Rockets at the FedEx Forum, or as it’s more popularly known – the Grindhouse. For roughly the first 34 minutes, it looked like number six in a row was in the bag for the Grizzlies.

Then a very unlikely trio sparked the most unlikely comeback of the early season for the Rockets. Houston claimed a 93-86 win thanks largely to the bench trio of Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Omer Asik.

At times Casspi has been very good off the Rockets bench, averaging 8.5 points per game, prior to Monday night. At times, especially early in the year, Garcia has been very good off the Rockets bench. Garcia made 14 of his first 30 3-point attempts this season but had been in a pronounced slump since.

The same could not be said for Asik. Since being pulled from the starting lineup six games ago, Asik had hardly contributed at all. That all changed for Asik over the final 14:07 against Memphis, and along with Casspi and Garcia, they helped propel the Rockets to victory.

The Rockets were down seven points, were converting just 43 percent of their shots and were getting outrebounded. Asik ran the floor, he contested shots and he rebounded. He grabbed seven of his ten rebounds in the final 14 minutes. After missing two games essentially because he was unhappy with his role and then hardly contributing in three other games, this could prove to be a big step for Asik with his teammates moving forward.

He played so well, that Rockets head coach Kevin McHale never went back to his starting center, Dwight Howard who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Casspi hit 3-of-4 shots and all four of his free throws for 11 points during that stretch and Garcia hit the 3-pointer that tied the game and had 2 steals and 2 assists, essentially throwing himself into everything. In the process he also fouled out, something he had not done in five seasons.

“We were kept trying to find a lineup that really clicked and that last lineup we had out there did a great job,” McHale said.

“Omer (Asik) really took care of the boards, did a great job defensively,” McHale said. “Omri Casspi was moving without the ball, (Fran) cisco (Garcia) made a big three and really defended well. That lineup had some rhythm so we just went with them.”

McHale and his staff spent essentially the entire game up until that stage looking for some energy and more specifically some offense. When he found it he stuck with it and that led to the Rockets second largest come-from-behind victory of the season. Early in the third quarter, Houston trailed by 14 points. In Utah, during the opening week of the season, Houston was down by 19 points before rallying for an 1-point victory.