Preview: Memphis Grizzlies (10-8) at Phoenix Suns (6-12)

Phoenix Suns 86, Memphis Grizzlies 84



Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that reached lows not seen in a decade, the NBA scheduling folks gave the Phoenix Suns no time to recover.

The Suns took a quick flight back to Phoenix, where they’ll play the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at 7 p.m. The Grizzlies themselves are looking to get back on the right foot, having lost two in a row to follow up a seven-game winning streak.

Memphis could present many of the same problems that the Trail Blazers used to demolish Phoenix on Friday. They’ve got athleticism at every position, even with power forward Zach Randolph out with a knee injury. Forward Rudy Gay leads the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game, and Marc Gasol could battle for All-Star votes with Marcin Gortat at the center position. Gasol has averages of 14.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, a mirror of Gortat’s 14.9-point and 9.9-rebound numbers.

Defense will be the name of the game for Memphis, and Lionel Hollins’ squad is in the top 10 in defensive ratings, a place once occupied by Phoenix this season. And, oh, how quickly the Suns have fallen out of that statistical standing. They now rank No. 22 in the NBA by allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions, and because they’re also No. 23 in offensive rating, the Suns are running out of positive things to cling to.

A quick, obvious fix to give them a chance tonight would be to shoot the ball better. Against the Blazers, Phoenix didn’t get many good looks and when it did, the Suns often failed to put the ball through the net. But it’s an unquestionable problem without an easy solution.

“I thought we would be better offensively,” head coach Alvin Gentry said before heading off to Portland. “I thought we would shoot the ball better, I thought we would come up with easier baskets.”

Until that happens, the Suns might become a punching bag for playoff-able teams like Memphis.

Three keys for Phoenix

1. Gortat’s mean streak. It’s become very clear that the Suns’ center wants to win, and he takes responsibility for patrolling the paint. Against Portland, he did that to the extent of 10 rebounds and eight points, but the Blazers ended up with 52 points in the paint. LaMarcus Aldridge, who could have torched Phoenix with his midrange game, scored most of his points on dunks and layups, all without getting fouled. The Suns must find a toughness, and that can begin with Gortat not letting the Grizzlies get buckets in the paint without making them pay.

2. Production at the wing spots. Between starting Ronnie Price, Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, Josh Childress and Michael Redd, the Suns got a collective 19 points. It’s one thing to share scoring duties, but when it takes five players to score that amount in 73 minutes, efficiency isn’t a word to use. Perhaps giving Brown a look at the starting spot — and more minutes — is an option Gentry could explore.

3. Pray. When an MVP point guard essentially says there’s not much talent on the roster, you know this team is in trouble. The Grizzlies’ length on defense isn’t something that will help Phoenix get over a 22-turnover game the day prior, and though Gentry could shake up the lineup and rotations, this writer doesn’t see any change that could lead to a drastic uptick. Plus, without practice time to solve their problems, the season could get ugly very quickly. That’s if it hasn’t already.

  • shazam

    throw out any 5 people with heart and they have a decent chance of beating this team….next year all our f a will be day laborers…that will save sarver more money

  • shazam

    when taken to a morgue a mirror is placed in front of your mouth…if fog appears that means there is still some breath left…the phoenix suns this year cant fog a mirror

  • JZ

    Blow up the roster and trade for an currently unhappy Dwight and a better SG and keep Kief, Nash, Hill, and maybe Dudz. By the end of the season there should be a ton of cap. One month from now this team may stay at .250 with no chance for a playoff spot. Clippers, Denver, Utah, Rockets, and Memphis are ahead of the suns to take the 6-8 spots. Even Minnesota has a better shot at this point. The thing about the team needing a couple more weeks to connect is just an optimistic view for this team. Good thing is a shortened season. FAIR WELL TO THE HIGH OFFENSE SUNS USE TO KNOW AND LOVE. RIP.

  • Zak

    Howard has already given a list of teams that he wants to be traded to and Phoenix isn’t on it. If you just want to rent him for the rest of the season by giving up what few trade chips the Suns have, well, NEXT season would probably be even worse than this one. One way or another, I think that Howard will wind up in Dallas next year. If the Lakers could have made a deal that Orlando would accept for him then he would already be there. Brook Lopez’s injury killed the possibility of a trade with NJ. Even if the Suns came up with a deal that Orlando would agree to to get Howard to Phoenix (which would obviously have to Include Gortat), he wouldn’t sign a contract extension with Phoenix and would move on to another team at the end of the season… and that would leave the Suns with Robin Lopez as their starting center next year.

    The Suns aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. They are a lottery team. They could make some trades that could vault them into the 7th or 8th playoff spot but it would be a temporary fix and we’ll be right here at this same spot again at this time next year.

    Better to just suck it up, deal with a very bad season this year and hope to get some good talent in the draft. As I’ve said before, I think any trades the Suns make this year should be aimed at adding draft picks instead of giving them away as they’ve done in the past.

  • Tony

    The Suns are clearly finished this season, I think that’s pretty obvious. With that being said, this game against the Grizzlies is actually important for a couple reasons. The most important reason is to see what kind of character the Suns players have. I’m not concerned about Nash or Hill’s character, as I’m sure they will come out playing with energy and determination. But how will the other players on the Suns respond? That is what is most critical to see because those who come out with their heads down and have given up should ride the pine.

  • Al

    The sad thing is that if you’re a small market you can’t rebuild and still try to fight for the playoffs every season. Portland, OKC, Grizzlies, 76RS have shown that the teams need to have losing season, high lottery picks and a little bit of luck with the college players they select to become the face of the franchise. Even with a high lottery pick there is still a probability that the player a team selects may become a bust at the NBA level (I.E. Hasheem Thabeet). Suns need to make a splash before the Trade deadline and acquire a go to scorer even if it means trading two first or second round draft picks. Suns haven’t been great with picking players at the draft the last couple of years. Other then Kief (this year mid 1 pick), Goran (2nd round) and Lopez (mid 1st rnd) have been the only decent (inconsistent) role players picked for half a decade. Phoenix is going to end up with another mid-level 1st round pick (2009, 2011) and no playoff spot by the end of the season if they keep trying to win with this team.
    If only Sarver could have predicted an amnesty clause on the new CBA on the 2010 free agency; he could have signed Stoudemire to max deal. SIGH. I’d take a Dwight rental at this point.

  • Scott

    Yay! Suns win Suns win Suns win …

    And I was completely wrong about all the changes Gentry was going to make, except one: he did not put Gortat and Lopez in together. In fact, Lopez did not play at all.

    The other DNP was Brown, who I thought would get moved into the starting SG position. Instead, Frye and Dudley got moved off the 2nd unit and into the starting five, when I thought they’d be kept on the 2nd unit. Morris got moved to the bench, when I thought he’d probably remain a starter, and whereas I thought Price would replace Telfair, it turned out Telfair came in early for Nash and Price had just six minutes in the game.

    Despite the changes, and the win, I’d like to point out that the Suns did not win this one by a wide margin. It was a matter of free throws at the end, and while everyone was playing with effort, the game ball has to go to Dudley, who pumped in some timely 3s and who got to the line more than twice as many times as any player not named Warrick. (Dudley was 6 of 8 on FTs, and Warrick was 4 of 7.)

    Dudley’s performance brings to mind Nash’s earlier comment about the Suns not having a lot of talent. I think the subtext to Nash’s observation was that the Suns needed to play with more effort – they can’t win on just talent – and Dudley (finally) came through with the level of effort we’re used to seeing from him.

    FWIW, Gortat was just one of 3 from the line, scoring 13 points, obviously struggling against “the wall” of Marc Gasol. And yet I think he would have had an easier time squaring off against Speights, with Lopez on Gasol. Oh well. :)

  • Scott

    As far as trades go, I think the Suns have to be patient and make the right trade. The hasty Dragic trade was ill-conceived and ill-executed, and we don’t want to see more of that ilk.