The expected showdown between two of the best defensive teams in the NBA never materialized as Memphis took an early lead and never looked back.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Going inside the Grizzlies’ 119-93 win against the Rockets. In a matchup of 9-1 teams, Memphis exploded against the NBA’s top-rated defense to take sole possession of the league’s best record, a franchise-best 10-1 start.
1. GRIZZLIES DEFENSE TOPPLES TOP DEFENSE
It looks like an offensive explosion and looking at 119 points, it’s tough to argue that. But in Memphis’ most complete game of the season, it started with defense. Houston, on the second night of a back-to-back entered Monday’s game as the league’s best defense. But it was Memphis finishing with 21 forced turnovers, leading to 31 points.
Grizzlies forward Tony Allen was asked if Memphis wanted to make a statement.
"Most definitely. We see the standings every day," Allen said. "We look at those guys as our opponents that we’ve got to watch out for, because they’re capable of making some noise."
Memphis is now 2-0 in the Southwest.
It started early. Houston turned it over 10 times in the first quarter, leading to 18 Memphis points. The Grizzlies scored 34 points in the first quarter and 31 in the second. A 26-5 spurt put it away early, a 41-20 lead in the stretch. Memphis’ largest lead was 36, the largest lead of the season for a team that usually reserves the fourth quarter for drama.
Memphis’ defense isn’t a slouch. The Grizzlies were second in the league, allowing 91.3 points per game. Houston did beat that by a couple of points, but allowed a whopping 30 points more than its 88.9 average.
Allen, bothered by early foul trouble, played his usual role in holding James Harden to eight points. He doesn’t feel the Grizzlies are put in the same defensive category, desire the proving numbers.
"We want people to talk about us like that," Allen said.
2. THREE-POINTERS RAINED FOR THE OTHER TEAM
Memphis’ bench continued its surge, scoring 56 points. First off the bench to spell foul-troubled Allen was Quincy Pondexter, who coming in, hadn’t played more than 16 minutes in the last five games. He played 30 and hit a season-high 13 points.
"Yeah, we got a great win, right? It was a total team effort," a reserved Pondexter said.
He can deflect the attention if he wants, but when he and Courtney Lee (15 points) produce points, this is a different Grizzlies team, some offensive gold to go along with the defensive grit. That grit is tough on opponents on no days rest, 11 straight home wins in that scenario.
While it was good for the Grizzlies to get Pondexter going, they flipped the script on Houston. The Rockets attempt nearly 33 3-pointers per game. Right on cue, they shot 34 Monday, but made only eight (23.5 percent compared to 36.1 percent coming in).
Memphis shot 17 of them, seven makes. Pondexter hit 3 of 8. Lee hit 3 of 4, back-to-back makes late in the third quarter that staved off a short-lived Houston run that never got the lead below 20.
3. MEMPHIS GREETS HOMETOWN STOKES TO WARM WELCOME
Jarnell Stokes is living his dream, the Memphis boy — and Tennessee Vols product — going from the cheap seats admiring Zach Randolph to sitting beside Zach Randolph.
Monday, the second-round pick got his first action of the season. On a deep team playing the way the Grizzlies are, that should be relished. It was.
With 4:53 left in the game, Stokes went to his patented hook and scored his first NBA points. The 17,012 went nuts.
"I kind of went to my bread-and-butter," Stokes said. "That was my first college points. I did that against Anthony Davis at Kentucky, keep it simple, running hook."
His final line: 2-for-2 shooting, two rebounds in 6 minutes, 16 seconds.
Memphis shot 53 percent. Vince Carter had his first Grizzlies dunk. Mike Conley had a game-high 19 points and seven Grizzlies reached double figures, but Stokes’ points have the potential to never be forgotten. He did it with two Memphis guys on the court for the Rockets, Tarik Black and Joey Dorsey.
"It’s kind of storybook," Stokes said.
20: Memphis has won 20 straight games at FedExForum, 6-0 this season. The streak will be put on the line Friday against the Celtics.
27: That’s how many fast-break points Memphis had, fueled by Houston’s 21 turnovers. The Grizzlies turned the ball over 10 times, the same amount Houston did in the fist quarter.