NBA

Rockets attempt to right their shooting against Grizzlies

The Houston Rockets officially find themselves in a shooting a slump and to escape it they will face the opponent who initially put them there.

The Rockets are in the midst of their worst stretch of 3-point shooting and will look for better results when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.

Houston is 2-4 in its last six games and the big reason for the slump can be traced down to performance from long range. The Rockets shot 35.7 percent from 3-point range in a 14-point loss at Minnesota on Jan. 11 and it was a figure not necessarily noticeable.

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The next few showings were and now the Rockets are the ninth-most accurate team from distance.

On Jan. 13, the Rockets were 3 of 24 in the second half and blew a 16-point lead in a five-point home loss to Memphis.

After hitting 21 of 44 3-pointers (47.7 percent) and scoring 137 points at Brooklyn on Sunday, the Rockets shot 23 percent and 32 percent, respectively, in a loss at Miami on Tuesday and a win over Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Then came Friday's 125-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Houston was 7 of 35 (20 percent) from long range and it was the second-lowest percentage of the season from the 3-point line. At one point, the Rockets misfired on 21 of 22 attempts from 3.

Houston has dropped five of seven when shooting less than 30 percent and the recent slump seems to be going through the roster.

James Harden missed all five of his attempts Friday and is at 27.5 percent (16 of 58) in his last six games. Eric Gordon was 0 of 7 and is at 29.4 percent (15 of 51) since returning from missing two games with a sprained left big toe.

Trevor Ariza is 4 of 20 in his last three games since tying a season best with six 3-pointers on Sunday. Also, Ryan Anderson will be out for the third time in four games with the flu and he made eight three 3-pointers in a 115-109 loss at Memphis on Dec. 23.

"We've got to do a better job of our spacing," Harden said. "I think that when they switch, we've got to space the floor even more and be able to get to the basket so that we will have kick-out opportunities. That's what happened in the first game at Golden State."

During these six games, Houston is shooting 31 percent from 3-point range. Before this slump, the Rockets reeled off nine straight wins from Dec. 26 through Jan. 10 by shooting 36.6 percent from long range.

"None of us are happy, but it happens," Harden said. "So what? What's next? And that's what our motto is."

What's next is a third encounter with an opponent who already has two wins over the Rockets. Houston made 20 of 52 3s in its 115-109 loss at Memphis on Dec. 23 but was done in by a 3 of 14 second quarter.

The Grizzlies have allowed the Rockets to score 100 points in seven of the past nine meetings. Memphis also has won 10 of the last 14 meetings and scored 100 points in six of those games.

Recently, Memphis has seen its offense take an uptick in scoring by getting at least 100 points in 12 of its last 14 games. The downside is the Grizzlies have allowed 100 in nine of their last 14 and are 7-7 in that span.

"Obviously, we're trying different things, trying to figure it out," Memphis center Marc Gasol said. "We're talking a lot, doing different stuff. If we don't get stops, it's going to be hard to win. We're not a super firepower team. It's a lot by feel."

Those were Gasol's words before the Grizzlies put both aspects together with a 107-91 home win over the Sacramento Kings.

Gasol scored 28 points and Zach Randolph added 20 while mixing up their shot selection. The frontcourt duo combined to make 5 of 9 3-pointers and shoot 16 of 33 overall.

Like many big men throughout the league, Gasol is expanding his game well beyond the paint. Before this season, he never attempted more than 17 3-pointers in a season but is 57 of 147 and the Grizzlies are 6-2 when Gasol makes at least three of those shots.

As for Randolph, he might surpass his previous total of 97 3-point attempts set in 2008-09. Through his first 38 games this season, he is 13 of 47.

"When they're making (3-pointers), it makes us really hard to guard," Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. "It opens up the paint for everybody, so to speak. They are both capable of going off and making five or six 3s a night."

Five or six might be a stretch for Randolph and Gasol, but the Grizzlies are gradually implementing more 3-pointers. Memphis made 10 or more 3s for the 21st time this season and it is three more than its total in the previous six seasons when it did not place higher than 25th in attempted 3-pointers.