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Rockets look to end trip with win over Grizzlies

Two teams that have already beaten the Golden State Warriors go head-to-head Saturday night when the Houston Rockets visit the Memphis Grizzlies.

Both clubs have used their win over the defending champs as the springboard to a strong start.

The Rockets outlasted Golden State on opening night, and have since won four of five, including 109-93 Friday night at Charlotte behind James Harden's first triple-double of the season.

Harden had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, and contributed four 3-pointers to the Rockets' team total of 22 as Houston moved within a win Saturday at Memphis from a sweep of their three-game trip.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson bombed in six 3-pointers apiece for the Rockets, whose 57 attempts were just four shy of their own NBA record for a single game.

"We're going to continue to tell everyone to shoot the ball," insisted Harden, who noted that a couple of the Rockets' newcomers have been a bit shy in shooting 3's so far. "We create opportunities in space, shoot it. Luc (Mbah a Moute) passed up a couple. P.J. Tucker passed up a couple. Even when Chris (Paul) gets back, he's got to get used to shooting the ball more than he ever has.

"It's going to take some time, but the more games we get under our belt, they'll get a feel for it."

Paul remains out of action with a strained knee he aggravated in the win over Golden State. Trevor Ariza, another of the Rockets' long-distance shooting threats, also has missed this trip with a sprained foot.

Houston began the four-day journey with a 105-103 win at Philadelphia, a game decided by a Gordon 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Rockets got their 3-point shooting in high gear when the swept the final two games of the season series from the Grizzlies last year, earning a four-game split.

Houston outscored Memphis 102-51 on 3's in the 119-95 and 123-108 wins that offset earlier 115-109 and 110-105 defeats.

The Grizzlies have taken a different approach to their 4-1 start. They used 18-for-20 free-throw shooting from stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to hold off Dallas 96-91 on Thursday night.

Gasol (10-for-10) and Conley (9-for-9) were even better at the line when the Grizzlies won 98-90 at Houston on Monday, outscoring the Rockets 34-17 on free throws.

Memphis' defense also limited Houston to nine 3-pointers in the win.

The Grizzlies finished the game on a 20-2 run.

"At the end of the game, not allowing them to score, that's a great way to finish," Gasol assured. "When you can trust that your defense is going to be there at the end of the game, you don't have to put as much pressure on your offense."

This year's season series between the Rockets and Grizzlies could provide a critical tie-breaker in a tightly contested Southwest Division that also features San Antonio.

The division winner likely will avoid Golden State early in the playoffs, which could be a key for survival for Houston and Memphis, teams that have been eliminated by the Warriors a total of three times in the last three seasons.

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