Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Let's get this out of the way so Houston Rockets fans don't feel slighted: On a night when James Harden missed yet another game because of a sore foot, the Rockets put on a fourth-quarter clinic in an impressive late comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies.
When the dust settled, Houston had outscored the reeling Grizzlies by a margin of 38-23 in the final period en route to a 93-86 victory.
But the real takeaway here is that Marc Gasol's absence is going to be devastating for Memphis.
Anyone who's watched the Grizzlies play over the past few seasons could have foreseen that. But in the first game since Gasol left with a sprained MCL, all of Memphis' flaws were on full display. Flaws that, until now, Gasol's all-around game largely obscured.
Without the league's best passing center orchestrating the offense from the elbows, the Grizzlies simply couldn't get anything going. They shot just under 42 percent from the field, and Mike Conley knocked down just two of his 14 attempts.
Spacing has always been an issue for the Grizz because their perimeter shooters aren't consistent enough to stretch defenses. So, Gasol's operation at the elbow has long been one of the only ways Memphis could unclog the middle and create lanes for cutters.
Kosta Koufos will absorb Gasol's minutes while the Spaniard recovers, and he played well against the Rockets. But his eight points and 13 rebounds didn't come with the defensive brilliance or unparalleled facilitation skills that Gasol brought to the table.
It's going to be a long few weeks for the Grizzlies. If they can't find a way to patch together a cohesive offense without their best player, a brutal Western Conference schedule could result in a lottery berth for the team that made the conference finals last season.