This was hardly an easy one for the Rockets, as Dwight Howard scarcely played due to foul trouble. And the Grizzlies absolutely destroyed Houston on the offensive glass to the tune of 20 offensive rebounds.
The Grizzlies' offensive rebounding has gotten so ridiculous, they're now fighting off each other, rather than Rockets, for o-boards.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) December 27, 2013
Fortunately for the Rockets, they made a living at the free-throw line, going 33-of-40 from the charity stripe. They also took care of the basketball, only turning it over nine times.
Rockets won last night thanks to owning battle of the 3-point line. Tonight, they moved several feet in and triumphed due to FT superiority.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) December 27, 2013
Another impressive win by the Rockets. They win in many different ways w/diff personnel groupings. Interesting team.— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) December 27, 2013
This marks the second time the Grizzlies have blown a double-digit lead against Harden and company, as they coughed up a 14-point edge in Memphis back on Nov. 23.
Zach Randolph led the Grizz with 23 points and 17 rebounds, and Kosta Koufos added 11 boards of his own.
However, it wasn't enough, as the Grizzlies let the Rockets hang around for too long.
Key Player Grades
Dwight Howard, Center
Due to foul trouble, Howard wasn't able to make his usual impact on this game.
The big man picked up three fouls in the first half and was then handed his fifth early in the third quarter, sending him to the bench for the rest of the contest. Apparently, that also had something to do with his back stiffening up after riding the pine for so long.
McHale said Dwight Howard's back stiffened. Would have gone back to him.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 27, 2013
That being said, even when Howard was on the floor, his impact was minimal, and it wasn't necessarily his fault.
There were numerous times where Dwight got position in the post and called for the basketball, but his teammates failed to get it to him. Instead, the Rockets would rotate the rock around the perimeter and settle for a bad shot.
However, there is never an excuse for being outworked on the glass, especially for a dominant rebounder like Howard, but that's what happened to him against Randolph.
The Houston big man finished with only two points and six rebounds and didn't block a single shot in 18 minutes.
James Harden, Shooting Guard
Harden opened up the game with a three-pointer for Houston. He didn't hit another field goal until the 1:49 mark of the fourth quarter, yet he ended up with 27 points.
Digest that for a second. Harden went over three full quarters without a bucket and made only two shots during the contest, but he ended up with 27 points.
That's a testament to how effective Harden is at getting to the free-throw line, as the prolific wing took 25 free throws. Twenty-five. He made 22 of them.
Harden was in attack mode all night, willing his way to the rim and doing his trademark flailing of the arms to draw as much contact as possible.
Along with his 27 points, the 2-guard recorded six rebounds and five assists while only committing two turnovers in 44 minutes. He shot only 2-for-9, but that's almost negligible due to his massive amount of foul shots.
Wasn't pretty at all but we will take it. #RedNation!!!!— James Harden (@JHarden13) December 27, 2013
Well said, James.
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
It's funny because Chandler Parsons was actually pretty quiet on Thursday night, and yet he still posted a double-double.
The third-year man out of Florida tallied 14 points and 10 boards while also doling out five assists in a hefty 44 minutes.
Parsons only shot 5-of-12 from the floor, but he converted on all four of his free-throw attempts and did a fine job of pulling down rebounds in traffic.
Also, you had to love this alley-oop he threw down off a nice Harden feed.
This was a perfect example of a good player making a positive impact, despite not having his best stuff offensively.
Jeremy Lin, Point Guard
Jeremy Lin was awful for the first 36 minutes of this contest. He struggled with his shot, he turned the ball over and he just looked lost on both sides of the floor.
Then, the fourth quarter rolled around.
This clearly hasn't been Lin's best game, but he's heating up at the right time. Crunch time. #RedNation— Howard Chen (@ho_chenCSN) December 27, 2013
Lin caught fire during the final period, getting rolling with a couple of triples and later converting an outstanding reverse layup in transition. He totaled 14 points in the fourth, making some big free throws down the stretch (he was 6-of-6 from the line overall).
The enigmatic point guard finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four turnovers. He also shot 5-of-13 from the floor.
No, the stat line might not look pretty, but Lin was big when it counted.
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Terrence Jones is becoming one of the more explosive first quarter players in basketball.
Jones scored 10 points in the first period and started out 7-of-7 from the floor, fighting inside and throwing down emphatic dunks on the break.
The second-year forward was also a presence defensively, blocking a couple of shots.
Jones ended up with 20 points (14 in the first half) and five rebounds in 31 minutes, shooting 10-of-14 from the field.
Aaron Brooks, Sixth Man
This was a so-so night for Aaron Brooks and also a somewhat unfortunate one.
Brooks turned his ankle early in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game.
During his 15 minutes of floor time, Brooks was alright, scoring six points off 3-of-7 shooting. However, he misfired on all three of his long-range attempts.
How about Donatas Motiejunas?
While Motiejunas' stats may not jump out at you, this may have been the best game of the big man's young career. He provided a crucial source of energy off the pine, stepping in for the foul-plagued Howard and giving the Rockets a solid rim protector (he had three blocks).
Dwight said he could have gone back in but felt D-Mo was playing well. He didn't want to mess up their rhythm. "He was Super D-Mo tonight."— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) December 27, 2013
Not only that, but D-Mo ran the floor well, throwing down a big dunk in transition that nearly tore the roof off the Toyota Center.
In 23 minutes, Motiejunas tallied four points and three rebounds to go along with his rejections.
Francisco Garcia also made some big plays late, especially the pivotal triple that he drained to put Houston up six with just under three minutes to go.
Thanks to the contributions from those two, the Rockets' bench earns solid marks.
What's Next for the Rockets?
On Saturday, the Rockets play the New Orleans Pelicans at home before traveling to Oklahoma City for a showdown with the Thunder on New Year's Eve. That is a potential Western Conference Finals preview, so be sure to keep your eyes on that one.
After the meeting with OKC, Houston gets three straight games against below .500 teams, giving Kevin McHale's club a chance to boost its record at the start of 2014.