PHOENIX — The Memphis Grizzlies have not had much luck in the Valley of the Sun — recently or ever.
Though they split last season’s series with the Suns 2-2, the Grizzlies haven’t had so much luck in the all-time series.
Taking on the purple and orange, Memphis is 14-43 all-time, 5-24 in Phoenix. That said, don’t put too much stock in it. The Grizzlies may not be perennial winners in US Airways Center, but they are more than capable.
Last season’s second game in Phoenix yielded quite the embarrassment for the Suns. With Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph going for 18 points and 11 rebounds while O.J. Mayo poured in 25 points, the Suns got crushed, 128-103.
Oh, and Sam Young added 22 points for the Grizzlies … really?
Granted, that was a time when the Suns were struggling and in some ways still finding an identity. Enter the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns.
The newest incarnation of the Suns appears to be on the brink of clicking after a solid effort in a loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, but have yet to signal that they are in any way locked in yet.
“We’re playing hard, we’ve been in every game and we just aren’t quite clicking yet,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said after Wednesday’s game. “So we’ve got a lot of improving to do, which makes me feel optimistic.”
The Suns showed flashes against the Spurs of the 2009-10 team that had more chemistry than Jay-Z has problems. It wasn’t enough, however, and something still appeared to be missing.
After opening the season against four teams who made the playoffs last year, the Suns get a slight reprieve against the Grizzlies.
“I’m glad we have a tough schedule at the beginning of the season because it’s letting us grow as a team,” Suns guard Jason Richardson said.
Taking on the Grizzlies may give the Suns a chance to figure some things out without the pressure of playing a top tier opponent. However, don’t expect the Suns to get caught snoozing, as they know from the aforementioned beat down just what the Grizzlies are capable of.
The thing that most people seem to be talking about right now is forward Hedo Turkoglu’s relative lack of production. In fact, many people — including ValleyoftheSuns’ Mike Schmitz — believe that Hakim Warrick should be starting in Turkoglu’s place.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said Wednesday that Turkoglu is still a big part of the Suns’ plans, and the big man isn’t likely to lose his spot too soon. Warrick is providing a valuable spark in the second unit, much like Louis Amundson did last season, but with more scoring and a serious ability to roll to the basket with force.
The one thing that seems to be solidly clicking for the Suns already is the second unit. Including Warrick’s 12.3 points per game and backup point guard Goran Dragic’s 10.0, the secondary is averaging 40.1 points per game.
Memphis’ bench, on the other hand, is only getting 26.2 points per game out of its bench. Granted, each starter on the Grizzlies is averaging 10 or more points per contest, but they are also averaging more than six additional minutes on the floor per game (34.6) than the Suns’ front five (28.3).
In today’s fast-paced NBA, those six minutes can be the difference between a win and a loss. So when a team like the Suns is able to get quality minutes from its bench and save its starters for the stretch run, momentum can shift quickly.
With their Friday showdown against Rudy Gay and company, the Suns look to swing a greater momentum in their favor.