Rockets 90, Grizzlies 98 - Shameful

The Memphis Grizzlies, high off their win over the defending champion Golden State Warriors, came to Houston and kicked the Rockets to the curb. The Grizzlies may have spent the vast majority of the game in a deficit, but that didn't stop them from leading at the only time that it mattered. As the final buzzer sounded the Rockets had taken on their first loss of the season, and in a supremely frustrating fashion. In an effort coordinated between every human to step onto the court tonight, defeat was salvaged from almost certain victory.

This game was even worse than the usual grim and miserable you might expect from a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite all the hard-nosed defense and veteran savvy Memphis brings to the table, despite other irregularities, the Rockets were still up by double digits with a mere six minutes left in the game. All the Rockets had to do was close out the game at even a fraction of their potential. This proved impossible as they gave up a 20-2 run to end the game and pick up their first, toxic L of the season. It was an offensive collapse, coupled with some truly frustrating calls on the floor.

First of all, let's hand a very big DARK GAME BALL to everyone except Clint Capela and Eric Gordon. Then when James Harden tries to pass it, John Goble, Curtis Blair, and Karl Lane can get in the way and grab it for themselves. The referees had a good time on the floor tonight, including a bizarre play in which Karl Lane got between Harden and Gordon, intercepting the pass and causing it to go out of bounds off his back. The correct call by the rulebook was that it was Grizzlies ball. With a minute left in the game and the Rockets down 4, this was not an opportune time for referee hi-jinks, however.

Let us not wade too deep into the referee hole, however. There's plenty of muck to dredge up, but it won't do any good. Yes, James harden was called for a foul for being kicked by Mario Chalmers, and nearly got into a fight with him about it. Yes, the Grizzlies out-flopped the Rockets. It was ugly and disruptive and this is probably what caused Steph Curry to throw his mouth guard the other day. It does not, however, explain how terrible the Rockets offense was, especially at the end of the game. Questionable officiating is simply a fact of life in the NBA, and largely out of team control. The inability to score, however, is a more pressing concern.

The Rockets have so far shown both great potential and infuriating ineptitude on offense. Against lesser teams like the Kings and Mavericks, they were able to make due without Chris Paul. Against an actual defensive-minded squad like the Grizzlies, there was no such luck. The core of the problem is that without Chris Paul, the Rockets have two guards. Bobby Brown is either unplayable or head coach Mike D'antoni has no interest is digging deeper into the roster. Demetrius Jackson has been abused by opposing teams thus far and does not look ready for the NBA. He should do very well in the G League and will hopefully be brought up to speed and may be a useful rotation player for the future. In the present, he isn't helping.

With Eric Gordon starting, there's little opportunity for him to rest if he's literally the only other guard besides James Harden. He gave a heroic effort in his 28 minutes but was simply used up by the end of the game. Harden and Gordon both looked completely spent after being put through the Grizzlies wringer all night. Having another guard, as Beverley was last season, would have likely turned this embarrassing loss into an ugly but acceptable win. There's little else to go into. Nobody on the roster outside Paul, Harden and Gordon can do anything close to running an offense, and it tanked the team tonight.

The Rockets' three point shooting woes continue: they shot 8-36 from the field for a miserable 22%. They are, for now, the worst three point shooting team in the league so far. As last year, and the year before, ad infinitum, the Rockets have a bunch of three point shooters but still need better three point shooting. Much of this is almost certainly attributable to the mediocre quality of their looks, something which should turn around starkly once Chris Paul returns. A lot is being pinned on his return, but he also brings a lot. There's no reason to panic, but until he comes back, there are now concerns.

Clint Capela was a bright spot on the team, finishing with 14 points on 7-9 shooting. He's working on his touch around the rim and he's getting noticeably better on both sides of the ball. Nobody is sleeping on Capela, nor should they.

This game was a wreck, and the sooner the Rockets can leave it behind, the better. The sooner Chris Paul can return, the better. There's not much else to say.

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