The Rockets lost back-to-back games on back-to-back nights to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and Saturday. The silver lining in those losses is that the Grizzlies become the first team in the western conference that the Rockets have finished their season series against.
Even though Houston emerged with a series split, playing against the Grizzlies -- as Rockets head coach Kevin McHale likes to say -- is like pulling teeth. In the two back-to-back games, Houston scored 87 and 81 points. That’s far below their 105 points per game average that ranks fifth in the NBA. In fact, they have scored 106.4 points per game in their other 42 games, while scoring just 90.3 points per game against Memphis.
“We’re not built where we can have guys play really poorly offensively and still compete,” McHale said following Saturday’s 99-81 defeat.
It was such a struggle for the Rockets to get consistent scoring against Memphis, they got a record-setting performance from Chandler Parsons on Friday night and still came up short offensively. Parsons hit 10 3-pointers in the second half of Friday's game, a feat that had never been accomplished previously in NBA history, yet the Rockets only scored 87 points and while Parsons made 10-of-14 3-pointers in that game, his teammates combined to make just 4-of-20 3-pointers.
The Rockets faced a deficit of at least 13 points in all four games against Memphis. They managed to come back and win the first two games, both without Dwight Howard playing a minute in the fourth quarter due to ineffectiveness and foul trouble.
Rockets leading scorer James Harden should be the happiest to see Memphis in the rearview mirror. He’s made just 30.3 percent of his shots for the season against the Grizzlies. He’s also one of three Rockets regulars that made less than 20 percent of his 3-pointers in the season series. Harden (15.4 percent), Terrence Jones (14.3 percent) and Jeremy Lin (18.2 percent) were the three culprits. Pat Beverley narrowly avoided joining that group, shooting 26.3 percent, but his problems drifted inside the 3-point line as well, making just 3-of-13 (23 percent) 2-point field goal attempts.
Howard didn't fare much better, averaging less than 10 points (9.5) and 10 rebounds (9.3) in the four games. He also shot less than 40 percent in just seven games this year, but two of those games have been against Memphis.
“They kind of play at a slower pace and they won the battle as far as how they want to play,” Harden said after Friday’s 88-87 loss to Memphis.”It’s definitely whoever can impose their will on each other, which team can get it going, and they won that battle as far as playing at their pace.”
The problem for Houston is Memphis won that battle in each of their four games this season. Houston averages 1.32 PPS (Points per shot attempt, including free throws). That mark is second in the NBA, two-time defending NBA champion Miami is first at 1.35. However, against Memphis in four games this season, Houston averaged a paltry 1.04 PPS. To put that in perspective, Milwaukee is the worst team in the league at 8-35 and is last in NBA at 1.11 PPS on the season.