Rockets lead by 27 in win over Grizzlies

Houston, TX ( - James Harden had 21 points and the Houston Rockets rolled to a 105-96 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night in a battle of Southwest Division powers.

The Rockets led for the final 38 minutes of the game and by as many as 27 points in the second half.

A 12-0 run at the end of the game made it look respectable for the Grizzlies, who entered play on a five-game winning streak and tied for the NBA's best record at 15-2.

Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry scored 16 points apiece for the 14-4 Rockets, who have won five of their last six, and Donatas Motiejunas scored most of his 15 points during a couple of key runs for Houston.

Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 15 points and Jarnell Stokes scored 12 off the bench.

Memphis went 3-1 on a four-game road trip and suffered its worst loss of the season so far after missing 11 free throws and turning the ball over 21 times, leading to 30 Houston points.

"There's not a lot to do about the numbers. That's the story," said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. "They were more aggressive and more athletic. They wanted it more and played with a lot of effort. There were not a lot of X's and O's."

The Rockets, who entered the game with the NBA's second-ranked defense behind only the Grizzlies, were without center Dwight Howard (knee) for a seventh consecutive game.

They avenged a 119-93 loss in Memphis on Nov. 17, their third straight in the series.

"We played really well," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "Guys moved the ball and attacked them before they got set, which is one of the keys to beating those guys. That's a really good team and a hell of a win for us."

The Grizzlies missed just three of their 15 shots in the first quarter but still trailed by six going into the second, in part because of an extended 21-7 Rockets run that was keyed by eight points from Motiejunas and six from Harden, who scored 11 in the quarter.

Motiejunas was instrumental in an 8-0 run in the second quarter that doubled an eight-point Houston lead, bookending the flurry with hook shots. Harden made a 3 during the run, which gave the Rockets a 55-39 lead with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

They held Memphis under 29 percent shooting in the second quarter and scored 17 points off 11 Grizzlies turnovers in the half to take a 58-46 lead into the break. Harden had 16 points in the half and Motiejunas scored 12.

"We started playing more as a team defense and started helping each other, trying to get them to make plays instead of just finishing over us and that led to a lot of mistakes (by them) and helped us get a lead," said Motiejunas.

Conley scored 13 points in the third quarter for Memphis but Houston opened with a 10-0 run, taking a 22-point lead on back-to-back 3s by Motiejunas and Ariza.

The lead reached 27 near the end of the quarter.

Game Notes

The Grizzlies lost despite out-shooting Houston 51.3 percent to 44.1 ... Memphis starts a four-game homestand on Friday against San Antonio ... Houston plays at Minnesota on Friday.