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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Grizzlies’ second-half sputter spells defeat

Terry Davis

On a day far from ordinary in multiple ways, the Memphis Grizzlies were saddled with an all too familiar outcome – another home loss. This time, the visiting victors were the Houston Rockets, who picked up only their second road win of the season by beating the Grizzlies 103-96 at FedExForum.

In some respects, it was a day with the feel of a homecoming. Star guard Ja Morant, the face of the franchise, made his first public appearance before the media since his exit interview following Memphis’ end-of-the road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last season. On Monday, Morant completes the NBA’s imposed 25-game suspension for bad behavior off the court

The game also marked Dillon Brooks’ first return to Memphis as an opponent since he left to join the resurgent Houston Rockets (13-9). Former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, now a special consultant for the Rockets, was also back in the building.

The FedExForum crowd gave Brooks a rousing ovation. During the first timeout, a video tribute – that included his community service commitment – highlighted his run with the Grizzlies.

Dillon Brooks acknowledges the FedExForum crowd after the tribute video for the former Memphis Grizzly. (Photo: Terry Davis/The Tri-State Defender)

“It was great,” said Brooks, who was visibly moved by the acknowledgement. “It brought back a lot of memories for me – seeing all the evolutions of myself; being a rookie and doing things in the community; growing as a basketball player. The different fashions I have had; turning into the villain. It was great. The warm welcome from the fans. It felt great.”

The Grizzlies (6-18), who have only won once at FedExForum this season, juggled the starting lineup once again, with Bismack Biyombo and Vince Williams Jr. inserted as starters. Williams had eight points and Biyombo had seven points as Memphis jumped on the Rockets early and ended the opening quarter with a 29-16 advantage.

Vince Williams Jr. gets a screen from Bismack Biyombo and makes his move. (Photo: Terry Davis/The Tri-State Defender)

Memphis maintained control in the second quarter, even though their season’s leading scorer, Desmond Bane, didn’t get his first points until 5:25 left in the first half. He ended the quarter with 10 points and the Grizzlies headed into the break up by 10 (55-45).

This Houston team, however, is far from the one that finished with a 22-60 mark last season. Much of that can be attributed to the Rockets’ new head coach, Ime Udoka, who went to the NBA finals as the head coach for the Boston Celtics.

Fred Van-Fleet had 16 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds as the Rockets’ starting guard. Former Grizzly Jeff Green had 12 points.

Udoka noted the chemistry between Houston’s veteran players and young guys.

“I think it’s been good. You know, target the right guys to bring in to help mentor and elevate the group, and I think having a point guard there is crucial. Dillon (Brooks) and what he brings to the team and then Jeff (Green) has been there, done that, coming off a championship and gains the respect of the team also. So young guys are receptive to their teaching.”

The Rockets took their first lead (72-70) with 1:45 left in the third quarter, which ended with Houston ahead by a point (75-74). Brooks had a team high 12 points in the quarter. He finished with 26 points (along with 7 rebounds), including a three-point dagger with 40 seconds left to play.

Jaren Jackson Jr. gets off his jumper as the Rockets’ Fred Van-Fleet closes in. (Photo: Terry Davis/The Tri-State Defender)

Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said the Grizzlies could not get into a rhythm offensively at the beginning of the third quarter.

“They went on a run, we had a couple of counter possessions, and they just found a groove on the offensive side,” he said. “I thought they did a good job. Points of attack, driving it, they got to the rim too much. (Our) rotations were poor, but I thought it started at the beginning of the third—our offensive struggles kind of fueled their offense a little bit.”

Bane led the Grizzlies with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 22 points and four blocks as he worked around 5 fouls. Biyombo had 10 points and 9 rebounds. Williams and Santi Aldama each had 11 points. Starting point guard Derrick Rose left the game with a strained hamstring and did not return.

The Rockets only shot 36 percent from the floor but found a way to close out the game.

Santi Aldama uses every inch of his height to get off this shot. (Photo: Terry Davis/The Tri-State Defender)


The Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City on Monday (December 18) to play the Thunder at 7 p.m. They conclude a two-game road trip in New Orleans, where they will face the Pelicans on Tuesday (December 19) at 7 p.m. The game will be shown on TNT and will mark the first, post-suspension game action for Morant. The first home-court play for Morant will be against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday (December 21) at 7 p.m.


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