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Hope everyone had a great, great Christmas/holiday, and was able to spend it with those that matter most doing what you like to do the most (y’know, watching Griffin get thrown out of a game).

Right back to business for the Grizzlies, heading to Houston on Christmas Day to set up for a national TV contest against the Rockets.

Well, seven things weren’t hard to come by regarding this game, eh?Thing one: The, uh, anticipated (?) return of Tayshaun Prince was COMFORTABLY overshadowed by the continued emergence of James Johnson as the prototypical “energy guy” leading to A LOT of camera and highlight time for JJ in that explosive second quarter. The fumbly pass leading to TO, a couple defensive mistakes….but he’s showing his NBA ability.

Thing two: The coaching and style “duel”.  As McHale said during one of the piped-in timeouts, “stops and go, stops and  go on the rebound”. Joerger said during one of the timeout interviews “I know I have to sub Zach out at some point, but I don’t want to”. Those two sentences say it all, and in the end, the McHale way won out. The Rockets only had 19 fast break points, but they were able to break down the Grizzlies’ D on “slow breaks” several times leading to baskets that didn’t count in the fast break column.

Thing three: Well, it sure wasn’t Howard. He had more fouls than points and almost more fouls than rebounds…and that is just positively nuts. He just didn’t seem involved and/or engaged. Perhaps this was by design to give him a night “off”, but that’s hard to believe. The B2B aspect can’t be overstated: he was likely fatigued from facing off against Timmy D and Co. the previous night. This is not to downplay the job Koufos and the Grizzlies did on him-he was frustrated and the Grizzlies’ doubleteam sags on him were well-timed.

Thing four: Three pointers. That’s how (the only way how?) Houston beats people….except this night. 5 of 24 is not exactly “well that’s how we won”. However, as we all know by now, shooting threes opens up an offense even if they aren’t necessarily dropping. Only fifteen points from long range, but 48 in the paint with pretty much zilch from Howard. Can’t be overstated how much the Grizz miss Gasol’s paint patrol on D.

Thing five:  This is becoming a disturbingly regular thing-the Grizzlies took OVER TWENTY MORE SHOTS than the opponent, and still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (tip o’ cap to Jack Eaton for the Memphis folk). Not the first time this season that there has been such a disparity with the Grizzlies winding up on the short end of the score. The Grizzlies’ offense just wasn’t strong enough in the non-ZBo department, and it’s partly because…

Thing six: …Conley is obviously still not up to snuff. Gotta admire the guy’s, ahem, grit for coming back as soon as he could, but he’s still limited by his thigh.

Thing seven: Ok, we’re gonna talk about free throws. I’m not going to ever say that the game was the best-called I’ve ever seen….but James Harden shoots free throws, and with TA seeming a step slow on him and no other Grizzly able to handle his first and second steps at all, the kind of game he had was just gonna happen. At least he’ll surely feel this game tomorrow. The Grizzlies, for their part, missed nine of the meager twenty they shot, and that’s not on anyone but the Grizzlies.

That’s  all we’ll say about the officiating.

Tough road loss in a game that the Grizzlies had in hand until the patented “scoring drought” came around spanning the end of Q3 on into Q4, but it’s still pretty easy to see that the Grizzlies are starting to put it together on D better than they had earlier in the season.

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