HOUSTON -- This was too easy. And it should have been.
The Houston Rockets knocked off a short-handed, injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies squad 130-81 on Monday night. The victory pushed Houston to within a half-game of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference.
After a 3-2 road trip in which the Rockets were trying to re-establish themselves in the West, making a statement against the Grizzlies was vital.
"We didn't want to come out and play around at all," Trevor Ariza said. "We wanted to get straight to it and that's what we did."
The 49-point win was the third-highest margin of victory in franchise history, and it was the Grizzlies' second-worst loss of the season. Houston almost tied the franchise mark for margin of victory but JaMychal Green's 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to play spoiled the record-setting mark.
Houston shot 54.1 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from 3-point range. On the night, the team made 16 of 33 3-point attempts. Yes, the Rockets made their 3s.
In the previous two games, Houston made 10 of 52 3-point attempts.
Patrick Beverley got it going by hitting his first two 3s of the night. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff joked that his starting point guard wants to shoot more and have the offense run through him. The way Houston played Monday, maybe so.
Motiejunas scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and moved well in the paint, particularly toward the basket.
"I think he's great for us," Bickerstaff said. "Any contribution we get is great. ... Him being comfortable would be huge for us. We would have another weapon down the block that you could throw the ball to, and he can work, he can facilitate your offense. He can move the ball and run, there's a bunch of things he can do to help us. So we're just happy to see him catching his rhythm."
Monday seemed so easy and so much fun to watch for Rockets fans.
Dwight Howard was blocking shots (five), James Harden almost had a triple-double with 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Ariza made four 3s, and the fourth quarter turned into a dunk contest between K.J. McDaniels and Montrezl Harrell.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Harrell looked like Superman after finishing a lob pass for a flush one-handed dunk along the baseline.
Games like this haven't been experienced often by the Rockets, who have played with such a maddening level of inconsistency.
"The player's mindset has been great," Bickerstaff said. "The focus has been great. The effort has been great. The togetherness, all of those things have been great."
Houston needed this victory badly, not because Memphis was missing key players such as Vince Carter, Mike Conley, Lance Stephenson, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to injuries, but if the Rockets are going to move ahead in the conference, now is the time.
There is no waiting to salvage something of their season; it's time to make a move now.
Houston did that very early on Monday night.
"It's critical, I think, being at home. Our swag was going to be up tonight no matter who we played," Harden said. "We just want to keep it rolling and every game is important for us, and we got to take advantage of it."