"That's the best defense I've seen Zach play since he's been here," Hollins said after Randolph's 23 points led the Grizzlies to their first victory of the season, 113-93 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Marc Gasol, who was 6 of 8 from the field, added 20, as the Grizzlies had six players in double figures. Randolph shot 11 of 14 and grabbed nine rebounds. Gasol and Rudy Gay, who finished with 10 points, each had eight boards as Memphis outrebounded the Rockets 42-33.
"Any time you have Randolph and Gasol go 17 of 22, you are going to have major issues," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Randolph, who doesn't have a reputation as a strong defender, was part of a Grizzlies front line that held Houston starters Chase Budinger, Luis Scola and Jordan Hill to a total of 17 points, 11 from Budinger.
While Randolph didn't necessarily agree with Hollins' assessment of the defensive effort being his best, he did acknowledge trying to concentrate more on that end of the floor.
"That's what I'm trying to focus on, just better D, helping my guys out and being in the right position," Randolph said, adding, "Defense wins games. I know I can score with the best of them, and rebound with the best of them. (Working) on defense there's going to be a trickle-down effect, and everybody gets to playing defense and moving their feet and helping each other out."
Memphis shot 56 percent and forced 20 Houston turnovers. The Grizzlies put away the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Rockets 31-16.
The victory was another step in Memphis establishing its identity as an inside force that carried the Grizzlies to the semifinals of last season's Western Conference playoffs.
"Defensively and offensively, we can get a lot better," Gasol said, "but this is more who we are. You saw some things last game (Wednesday's 98-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder) and today for longer periods, we played better."
Memphis opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run for a double-digit lead and eventually carried a 57-51 lead into the locker room, shooting 56 percent.
Randolph had 15 in the half, while Gasol scored 13. Martin had 19 points at the break for the Rockets and Lowry contributed 13, going a combined 10 of 16 from the field.
"We started off the game, and (Randolph) made some shot that we didn't want him to take, those long jump shots, and he just got on a roll," McHale said. "We couldn't stop him."
Memphis extended its lead by opening the second half with an 18-7 run, claiming a 75-58 margin just past the midway point of the third period.
The Grizzlies continued to pour on the offense, fueled by defense. The Rockets were 6 of 20 in the quarter, leading to Memphis outscoring Houston 31-16, giving the Grizzlies an 88-67 lead entering the fourth.
Houston made a small dent in the advantage as Parsons began hitting, scoring all his points in the fourth quarter. He was 5 of 9 from the field, connecting on all three of his shots outside the arc.
But even with a rally behind the rookie, the Rockets never really threatened.
"I think as guards, we should help our big men," Lowry said. "They had their hands full given those two (Randolph and Gasol) are really great players. They definitely wore down our defense."
Meanwhile, Memphis players are recognizing the importance of defense on their own end of the floor, and that an aggressive approach leads to more scoring opportunities.
And Randolph was the one getting the accolades for his defense.
"He understands for us to go to the next level, we need everybody to be engaged defensively," Gasol said.
Hasheem Thabeet, drafted by the Grizzlies with the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, returned to the FedExForum for the first time since he was traded to the Rockets last February. He was on the inactive list for Friday's game. ... McHale said fast-paced teams seem to be dominating the early games in the league, partially because of the short training camp. "Open court, free-flowing basketball is pretty instinctual to most of the NBA players," McHale said before the game. "You don't have to have as much structure in that as you do when you get sets. ... A lot of things happen in those five-man sets with 14 seconds on the shot clock that are not good right now in the NBA." ... Patrick Patterson, in his second season out of Kentucky, saw his first action of the season after being inactive for the first two games with a right ankle injury. ... Conley did not dress for the game, still suffering from a left ankle injury suffered in the opening minutes of Memphis' Wednesday night loss to Oklahoma City.