Something had to give when the first-placed Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets squared off for National Basketball Association bragging rights on Monday night.
Mike Conley led seven players in double figures with 19 points as the Grizzlies mauled Houston 119-93 in a match-up between the two teams with the best records in the league.
Memphis extended their perfect home record to 7-0 while handing the Rockets their first loss on the road this season. "They beat the hell out of us," admitted Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
Courtney Lee tallied 15 points and Zach Randolph delivered 12 points and seven rebounds for the Grizzlies, who scored a season-high point total and improved to 10-1.
Reserves Quincy Pondexter, Beno Udrih and Jon Leuer each netted 13 points in front of a crowd of 17,012 at the FedEx Forum arena, where Memphis have now won 20 straight games.
"This is one of the better starts we have had," said Conley. "They have had our number the last few years, so for us to come out like we did says a lot about our team."
Monday's victory put the finishing touches on a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies.
"I liked what I saw from our team tonight. We showed growth," Grizzlies coach David Joerger said. "It was fantastic. I'm very proud of our guys."
Trevor Ariza paced Houston with 16 points and Dwight Howard chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Rockets, who have lost seven of their last eight in Memphis.
After a lethargic offensive effort on Sunday, in which Houston shot 28.8 per cent from the floor in a 69-65 win over Oklahoma City, the Rockets jumped out to an early lead in this one.
But that did not last long as Memphis led 34-18 at the end of the first quarter and 97-66 heading into the fourth.
After visiting Memphis, Houston will now head home for five straight games.
McHale said that it will be good to get home and try to bounce back in the next game.
"They beat us to the ball to get easy baskets off our turnovers. They were on top of us," he said.