The Grizzlies may have beaten the Rockets in their second and third matchups this season along with their bench outscoring Houston’s 109-54 in those games, but I knew before their final game Sunday night that it was going to be payback. Memphis had their young studs like Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley rolling in those games, but this time I knew the Rockets’ young guns were going to get payback.
Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Von Wafer and former Grizzly Kyle Lowry all came through with strong games (32 points in total) Sunday night. Throw in the consistency of double-doubles from Yao Ming (24 points on 9-of-13 shots, 17 boards), Luis Scola (18 points, 14 boards), Ron Artest (13 points on 5-of-10 shots), and a little bit of swagger playing at home where they had won 11 in a row, and you get a 93-83 victory for the Rockets.
Yao Ming blocks the shot of Marc Gasol, one of 3 blocks that Yao racked up during a win. Click here for more photos from the game.
Houston led 28-19 after the first quarter, by 18 points after the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and it was just matter of time before the Rockets put the game away so Brian Cook and Brent Barry could get into the game for garbage time at the 4:27 mark with Houston up by 25 points.
Those 2 losses earlier in the season really hurt, but this win puts a little salve on the wound.
In the first loss to Memphis in December, the Rockets’ defense was terrible, Artest didn’t play, and Luther Head was 1-for-8.
In the second loss on February 4th, the Rockets’ defense was bad again, especially in defending Mayo (32 points) and giving up 53.3% shooting. On offense, McGrady was 0-for-5 from 3-point land, Artest only scored 5 points on 1-of-10 shooting, Wafer had only 5 points, Landry didn’t score, and Brooks didn’t play.
It’s amazing how much has changed for the Rockets since then. It’s like they’re a different team, having gotten younger with the aforementioned young guns, and no longer having two players in the lineup who were like a box of chocolates, wondering what you’re going to get.
They’ve also gotten back to their workman-like defense, holding Memphis to 38.1% shooting and blocking 9 of their shots, all in the first half. Yao had 3 of them, and Landry had 4, which is amazing since Carl only averages .3 per game this season.
Yao has now blocked 30 shots in his last 11 games for a 2.73 average compared to a 1.9 career average. If the Rockets start to pick up on their blocked shots like this, oh my goodness, watch out!
Now the Rockets embark on one of their toughest stretch of games of the season. They play the second night of a back-to-back in Denver Monday night, play the Lakers Wednesday night in Houston, play at Charlotte Friday night, then fly to San Antonio for a game Saturday night. That will end a stretch of 5 games in 7 nights.
Before the Rockets dealt Rafer Alston and promoted Brooks to starting point guard, acquired Lowry, and McGrady was still playing, I would have predicted the Rockets would have gone 1-3 during that stretch.
Now with all the improvements, I think they can go 2-2, and maybe even 3-1. That would mean there might be 1 or 2 shockers: wins against the Lakers and Spurs. Out of all the games, I think the Denver game is the one that’s going to be the toughest to win.