Phoenix Suns 98, Memphis Grizzlies 91 -- Eyeing the playoffs

Robin Lopez did his best to play keep-away against the Grizzlies Saturday night. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

The Phoenix Suns kept the Memphis Grizzlies off the boards as well as they possibly could and overcame 16 turnovers to take their fifth straight home game, 98-91.

Phoenix opened the game with a slew of sloppy play, allowing Memphis to get out in transition and score some easy baskets on fast breaks. The Grizzlies did a solid job of mucking up the Suns’ pick and roll as well, particularly in defending the roll man.

Steve Nash took advantage of the extra attention to Marcin Gortat to score two easy baskets at the rim. Nash also had seven assists in the first quarter, which saw Shannon Brown check in earlier than he typically does for some run with the starters, in place of Jared Dudley. Gortat and Grant Hill sparked the Phoenix offense in the first quarter, which ended with Memphis leading 29-26.

The second quarter started off slowly for the Suns, who scored just two points in the first three and a half minutes of the period. The Grizzlies, who had pounded the ball into the post during the first quarter, continued their interior onslaught in the second and opened up an 11-point lead on the strength of Gasol and Marreese Speights’ scoring.

Fortunately, Robin Lopez chose that stretch to decide enough was enough. An offensive rebound and putback with 6:12 to go in the first half brought the Memphis lead down to seven and offered a glimpse of what Lopez would offer in the second half. Dudley caught fire toward the end of the quarter, scoring nine straight points, and the Suns managed to go into halftime with a 53-51 lead.

With the starters back in for the second half, Phoenix widened its margin to six with five minutes to play in the third quarter. Once again, victory or defeat would come down to how well the bench could hold onto a lead. When Hakim Warrick and Shannon Brown checked in for Hill and Frye with 2:32 left before the fourth quarter, the Suns were clinging to a one-point advantage, but Nash drilled a three to extend the lead to six after three.

At that point, Lopez took over where he had started earlier in the game. He continued to pull down rebounds, grabbing seven in all — six offensive — and blocking three shots. The biggest of those swats came with 6:15 left to play in the game; Lopez followed up a monster block on Gasol with a nifty finish on the offensive end to give the Suns their biggest lead of the game at 10. Coach Alvin Gentry rewarded Lopez for his strong play with extended burn with the starters, keeping Gortat on the bench until well into the fourth quarter. Given his ability to harass Gasol and clean up Phoenix’s misses, it was time well-deserved for Lopez.

All five Suns starters scored in double-digits, led once again by Dudley, who had 19 points to go with seven boards. Nash added 15 assists and 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

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