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Early hole too deep for Grizzlies to dig out and beat Rockets

The Memphis Grizzlies found themselves adrift in a flashback soon after tipoff against the Houston Rockets at the FedExForum on Saturday night.

Exactly one week ago, Memphis lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on the second day of a back-to-back after a slow start. Against the Rockets (14-14), the Grizzlies (16-13) once again were hampered by a slow start, this time en route to a 105-97 loss.

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff draws up a move. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“I just don’t think we had our footing,” Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I think we hadn’t caught up to their speed.”

Unlike the last back-to-back, the Grizzlies lost both games of this one. But, they also fought back against Houston after trailing by 21 points at the half.

Here are three of the main takeaways in the Grizzlies matchup against the Rockets.

Slow start

It was the theme of the day for the Memphis teams that played at the FedExForum on Saturday. Like the University of Memphis against Tennessee, the Grizzlies found themselves in an early hole.

Jaren Jackson Jr. stretches out in an attempt to stop James Harden from connecting. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

In the first half, the Grizzlies were buried by the Rockets shooting 58 percent from the field. That torrid pace was amplified by the Grizzlies’ struggles offensively, making 43 percent of their shot attempts.

At the half, the Grizzlies were down 61-40. The Rockets’ 58 percent shooting was the highest the Grizzlies defense had allowed in a first half this season.

“We had to find a way to slow the game down a little bit,” Bickerstaff said. “Their ability to make threes is what kills you. In that first half, they were knocking them all down.”

The Grizzlies scrapped away at the first-half deficit after the break, getting the lead down to as low as six points and stirring the home crowd.

Debut/emergence of Jevon Carter

Due to injuries and setbacks, Jevon Carter — the Grizzlies second-round draft selection — had yet to make his debut for the Grizzlies.

At West Virginia, Carter was known as a pesky on-ball defender who gave ball-handlers trouble. That reputation carried over in his NBA debut.

Jevon Carter made Chris Paul and the Rockets take note of his defense. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

In 22 minutes, Carter provided 11 points and two steals. The steals came against two of the best players in the NBA — James Harden and Chris Paul.

“I thought he gave us a huge spark,” Bickerstaff said. “To have this opportunity and go after two future hall-of-famers with a fearless nature says a lot about him.”

Coming into the game, Harden didn’t know much about the rookie, but that changed.

“He’s very active,” Harden said. “He plays his butt off. He did an unbelievable job of pressing me and Chris up the floor.”

MarShon Brooks/Wayne Selden return

Had it not been for some breakdowns in communication, MarShon Brooks and Wayne Selden wouldn’t have been Grizzlies after Thursday.

An attempt at a three-team trade involving them failed, leaving them on the Memphis roster and creating an awkward situation. Bickerstaff said he met with each player individually before the game to make the best of the situation.

MarShon Brooks guards the three-point line against Chris Paul. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“I don’t think that everything is perfect,” Bickerstaff said. “I think they came out and showed their best face going through the circumstances. It’s not an easy thing for them to go through personally.”

As Brooks checked into the game, he received a loud ovation from Grizzlies fans. He and Selden combined for 10 points.

NEXT: The Grizzlies head to Golden State on Monday as they begin a four-game road trip. The next home game is against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 26.

PHOTO GALLERY (Photos by Karanja A. Ajanaku)




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