The Phoenix Suns are riding high after knocking off the undefeated Atlanta Hawks Sunday in A-Town.
The offense clicked and Phoenix fought off Atlanta’s 18-point comeback to win its second straight game and move to .500.
But while the Suns are moving in the right direction, several things are working against them heading into tonight’s showdown against the Grizzlies.
For starters, they’re on the tail end of a back-to-back, which doesn’t exactly bode well for an aging Steve Nash, who played 33 minutes against the Hawks on Sunday, along with some of the Suns veterans.
Tired legs isn’t the only thing working against a Suns team that’s always struggled in back-to-back situations, however. Memphis is still peeved over its implosion Friday night as it pissed away an 18-point lead en route to a 123-118 double-overtime, Phoenix victory.
“That game (against Phoenix) we should have had,” Rudy Gay told The Associated Press.
Between Gay’s unintentional made free throw and Jason Richardson’s improbable alley-oop tip in with 0.4 seconds remaining, Lionel Hollins’ young club endured the ultimate meltdown.
But the Grizzlies are a tough-minded squad that will surely bring its A-game for Phoenix after Friday’s debacle. The Grizzlies also match up fairly well with the Suns, as their big and powerful front line of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is set up perfectly against a weak Phoenix frontcourt.
The Suns’ four-five combo of Hedo Turkoglu and an underperforming Robin Lopez aren’t exactly bangers and the Grizzlies posted 54 points in the paint against Phoenix in their last meeting. Channing Frye had the best defensive game of his career in the overtime thriller, holding Randolph to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting while grabbing 11 boards himself.
Phoenix also outrebounded the Grizzlies, 55-48, but a tired and undersized Suns team doesn’t matchup all that well with a bigger, more physical Memphis team. So the Grizzlies seem to have the advantage heading into today’s game. But no matter how tired the Suns are and how motivated Memphis is, Phoenix has hit its early-season stride.
The Suns undoubtedly played their best team game of the young 2010-11 season against the Hawks and showed a cohesion that had yet to develop through five games. Atlanta hadn’t lost at home in 14 tries, but the Suns blew up its defense that allowed 96 points per game heading into the contest.
Nash is figuring out how to distribute effectively while carrying the load offensively, Jason Richardson continues to explode as he’s averaging 22.5 points per game, shooting 52.5 percent from three and playing as well as any two guard in the NBA, according to Alvin Gentry. Turkoglu is also finding a rhythm offensively, averaging 14.5 points in his last two contests and the Jared Dudley-led bench has been even better than last season.
The Grizzlies, however, are also coming off of a win as they bested Sacramento 100-91 Saturday night. Gay went for 32, upping his season average to 27.1 points per game, and Randolph scored 20 while ripping down 11 boards.
So both Phoenix and Memphis are fresh off of victories, but Memphis has the upper hand due to home-court advantage, tired legs from the Suns and some extra motivation for the young Grizzlies. It’s extremely difficult to beat a team twice in a row, especially twice in a four-day span.
But the Suns have proven to be the superior ball club and if they fight off the tired legs and hang with the Grizzlies down low, they could continue to roll and land their third consecutive victory.