Court Vision: More 3s drop Grizzlies for fourth straight time

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol scored 29 points and had eight rebounds and four assists in a losing effort on Friday.

Justin Ford/Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — James Harden came within two rebounds of a triple double to overshadow Marc Gasol’s 29-point night for the Grizzlies in a 117-111 overtime win.

Here are three observations from Memphis’ fourth straight loss, a loss that saw the return of Tony Allen, but the third missed game for power forward Zach Randolph and his sore right knee.

Memphis center Marc Gasol isn’t disrespected, though a lot of Grizzlies fans may not agree with that. In fairness, he doesn’t get the national attention other centers around the league get, for one reason his team isn’t plastered over national television each week.

He is respected by the NBA, though and Friday night he showed why. Going head-to-head with Rockets’ center Dwight Howard, Gasol won the individual battle in the loss.

Gasol scored 29 points and had eight rebounds and four assists, no turnovers and a couple of blocked shots. Two of the rebounds came while holding off a body with his left arm and securing the board with his right.

Howard, who had two early fouls, scored six points on 1 of 4 shooting. He had 11 rebounds and three turnovers.

Gasol, ever the individual downplayer, made 12 of 21 shots and even a surprise 3-pointer. But he’d love to have another shot at the 16-foot jumper he missed that would have won it in regulation. He had time for a touch and shoot with .6 seconds to play. Howard’s highlight: 4 of 4 from the free throw line in overtime – ironically after the 52 percent free throw shooter lost a contact.

Asked where Howard ranked Gasol among NBA centers:

"I don’t even want to talk about that, boss," Howard said. "He’s a great player."

A boss, even.

In a four-game losing streak, Grizzlies opponents are shooting 43 percent from behind the arc. Sure, Houston (21-7) takes more than 34 3-pointers per game. That’s first in the association and seven more than second-place Phoenix. Memphis takes a league-27th 15 per game and shoots 15th best .355. That’s three spots ahead of Houston’s .342. Not Friday. The Rockets on cue took 34 3-pointers and made 14 of them, plus-21.

It’s about closing out, as Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger pointed after Monday’s loss to Utah, but it’s starting to sting, as telling with Memphis point guard Mike Conley’s tone when asked about it.

Starting with a sigh, "We’ve just got to do a better job of closing out," he said. "I think we’re doing a better job of being in help positions in the paint, especially on guards trying to get to the rim, but we have to do the multiple efforts."

Memphis (21-8) scored 50 in the paint, six more than Houston, but the Rockets doubled the Grizzlies from deep. Harden hit two of his four for six of his 32 points. In a fourth-quarter run, new addition Corey Brewer and Jason Terry hit two and Harden hit another.

As if the Western Conference wasn’t tough enough, Josh Smith entered with a bang. In his first game with Houston after being waived by Detroit, Smith debut in Memphis went for 21 points off the bench.

"They think big of my talents," Smith said of the Rockets. "It’s a big opportunity for me."

Shooting under 40 percent in Detroit and waived with nearly $30 million in spending cash, Houston gladly added him. So far, so good. He played nearly 32 minutes and made 9 of 21, also finishing with eight rebounds and three assists. He was averaging 13.1 points in Detroit and scored more than 20 only three times in 28 games.

Houston coach Kevin McHale pulled Smith to the side during the first half and with a smile corrected something. Smith was quite effective and just now in the playbook. If he still plays like he did once he gets in the deep end, look out.

"I was really happy with Josh," McHale said. "We will get him more acclimated in practice tomorrow. Josh didn’t know some of the plays we were calling, but still did well. I told Josh, ‘We are just trying to keep you on your toes.’"

18: Memphis averages 10.5 fastbreak points per game. The Grizzlies kept up with running Houston and nearly doubled the production.

7: Memphis has played in seven overtime periods since Dec. 12. The Grizzlies had won the first three.

"A lot. I think Gasol and (Zach) are fantastic together. They’re hard to deal with." – Rockets coach Kevin McHale on Memphis missing Randolph

"You’ve to go play. They are a good team. That’s a dynamite team. We had a chance to win, kind of." – Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger on the four-game slide