For the first time in 2,137 days, and for the first time ever as a starter, Houston Rockets shooting guard Kevin Martin failed to score a single point in an NBA regular season game in which he played. Martin has scored an average of 18.4 points per game in the 2011-12 season, but in the Valentine's Day Showdown against Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, he went 0-3 from the floor in 19 minutes and was held scoreless. That hasn't happened since April 9, 2006, when he played for the Sacramento Kings. With Martin neutralized, Kyle Lowry struggled to shoulder the load -- he scored 24 points on 7-16 shooting -- as the Rockets shot just 38.5 percent as a team, while the Grizzlies grabbed the lead in the middle of the first quarter and never let it go in a 93-83 home win.
The Grizzlies played fairly well on offense, but were not dominant on that end of the floor by any means. They hit 47.9 percent of their shots, but still turned the ball over (16) more times than they dished out an assist (15). The frontcourt played particularly well, considering Rudy Gay (8-15 for 20 points), Marreese Speights (4-6 for 8 points) and Marcus Gasol (7-9 for 18 points) survived as the only three Grizzlies players to make more than half their shot attempts. That trio combined for 31 first-half points on an absurd 73.7 percent shooting as Memphis built a 52-43 lead by the intermission, and on the night they helped the Grizzlies record 18 made baskets in the paint on 35 tries while holding the Rockets to 19 baskets on 45 attempts down low. All three players attacked the front of the rim and worked to gain premium position near the basket throughout the night.
Even with the quality interior offense, there is no doubt that Memphis won because of their effort and execution on the defensive end. With the Rockets on the last leg of their six-game road trip, Tony Allen set the tone by forcing Martin into a turnover on the opening possession and Marc Gasol added emphasis by rejecting Luis Scola the next time the Rockets touched the ball. Martin has been dealing with various injuries, including a bout with plantar fasciitis that forced him to miss a pair of games in January and a more recent run-in with back spasms. He had already been held under double-digits in scoring four times in February, but Tony Allen forced K-Mart to follow up his 28-point performance against the Warriors on Sunday with one of the worst games of his career. How bad did it get? With Memphis up just six entering the fourth quarter, Kevin McHale elected to go with Chase Budinger and left Martin on the bench for the rest of the game. In answering questions during post-game interviews, Martin didn't offer any encouraging words, either:
"I don't need plays for me to get going. I've been successful in my career just getting in the flow of the game. I'm over there chilling. It is what it is at the moment."
With their leading scorer locked down, almost every halfcourt possession for the Rockets' offense felt like a struggle. They opened the game 8-27 (29.6 percent) from the field and never really recovered, but a lot of it had to do with active hands, energetic on-ball pressure and quick rotations by Grizzlies defenders. Luis Scola had more turnovers (five) than made baskets (four) and the only starter to score in double-figures was Lowry. Memphis consistently rerouted penetration away from the rim and forced Houston players into difficult shots, which is a big reason why the Rockets finished up with 18 turnovers and just 14 assists as a team.
Although Houston never led after a turnaround bank shot from Tony Allen gave Memphis a 15-13 lead with 5:10 remaining in the first period, they did briefly threaten to make it a game late. Lowry swiped a Mike Conley pass and raced down for a layup to cut the lead to five points with 2:58 left, but Gasol set up Conley for a second-chance three and then Rudy Gay pushed the lead back to 10 points and effectively sealed the win with a steal off a deflection and an assist on the ensuing O.J. Mayo layup.
The Rockets (16-13) finished up their six-game road trip with a 3-3 record after the 93-83 loss, while the Grizzlies (15-14) are winners of of three of their last four games after stumbling to a 1-3 record to open the month of February.