Rockets 111, Grizzlies 96 - Vengeance

The Houston Rockets have three losses on the season, and the Memphis Grizzlies account for 67% of them. The Grizzlies headed to Houston tonight, hoping to claim the season series and bring that number up to 75% of the Rockets' losses. Unfortunately for them, the Rockets have been sliding ever more steadily into their groove and have largely figured out how to compensate for the lack of viable guards. The Rockets are rolling, and the Grizzlies got rolled in the process.

Memphis may have started the season red-hot, but have since cooled off to a more sustainable level. The Rockets, on the other hand, are now a close approximation of the 55-win team they were last season, with James Harden resuming his position as a human MVP campaign. This level of play would be insufficient against the Golden State Warriors or perhaps the Boston Celtics in their current supernova form, but against the oddly slumping rest of the league, this is more than enough.

Harden scored 38 points in his 38 minutes, shooting a mere 14 times to do it. He added 4 rebounds and 8 assists to produce yet another celestial stat line that's just normal for James Harden. He was joined by the only other usable guard and resident understudy, Eric Gordon. Gordon scored 26 points on 7-16 shooting, including a hilarious 6-11 from behind the arc. This time, the Grizzlies were not able to grind down the guards and did not find much purchase in this game.

The game was effectively over at the end of the third quarter, after some heroics resulted in the Rockets taking a 23-point lead. The lead waxed and waned in the fourth quarter, but the damage had already been done. It ended as a 15-point victory, but was not nearly that close in the last 24 game minutes. The Rockets are simply more talented than the Grizzlies, and their veteran savvy and effort advantage wasn't enough to grab three wins over the Rockets in a row, which would have cinched the season series.

This is yet another game in the extended absence of Chris Paul, in which the Rockets simply need to tread water and win games until they can get back to the real task at hand, which is to integrate Paul into the team in a meaningful and prepare for the playoffs. So far, their version of treading water in the games without Chris Paul is a 9-3 record in those games and elite net rating and point differentials. This was an easy win for the Rockets, but the real good news is that we haven't seen anything yet.

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