Preview: Phoenix Suns (30-27) at Memphis Grizzlies (33-23)


Memphis Grizzlies 104, Phoenix Suns 93

Suns

Grizzlies

The Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies just might be two of the most improved teams since the All-Star break, and they’ll meet tonight in attempts to continue their steady pushes for playoff spots.

Of course, the difference is in just where they’re going. The more desperate Suns have little room for error in this three-game swing through the Grizzlies tonight, Houston on Friday and San Antonio on Saturday. Phoenix stands a game behind the Denver Nuggets, who sit in the eighth and final playoff spot.

Meanwhile, Memphis is running through solid Western Conference playoff squads like a recently-sharpened buzzsaw, and its currently eyeing the fourth seed. The Grizzlies have gone 5-1 in the month of April with wins against Oklahoma City, Miami, Dallas, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Everyone is really close, and we moved that much closer to the fourth spot,” Memphis guard O.J. Mayo said after the win over the Clippers on Monday. “We’ve just got to keep playing well.”

As far as statistics go, the Grizzlies don’t stand out in many categories as a whole. They’re 20th in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating, according to BasketballReference.com.

Yet, chemistry and a strong cohesion — the same one that saw them go on a competitive and surprising playoff run last season — seems to be clicking as the season winds down.

Rudy Gay has returned and leads them in scoring with 18.4 points per game. Marc Gasol holds it down in the interior with 9.4 rebounds a game, and Mike Conley is quietly going about his solid point guard duties with 6.8 assists per night.

Add in the development of Marreese Speights, and the implementation of Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas into the second unit — Randolph is still on the comeback from a knee injury while Arenas is entering only his 10th game with the Grizzlies — and there’s finally depth on the roster.

Phoenix, on the other hand, will be tested with physicality, hustle and a solid defense from coach Lionel Hollins’ team.

Will it be enough to take on one of the hottest and more talented teams in the Western Conference?

Three keys for Phoenix

Just get a hand up. Outside of Arenas’ small sample of 10-for-24 shooting from three-point land, Memphis doesn’t really have any outstanding long-range gunners. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo can hit a three-pointer from time-to-time, but both sit just under 37 percent. If the Suns have a hand in the Memphis players’ faces, that should be good enough to keep them out of the lane and not a huge threat to pour in the points.

Somehow get the starters going. We’ve all witnessed how surprisingly stingy Phoenix’s bench unit has been of late, and their defense has led to huge bursts of scoring. Sebastian Telfair has been a catalyst of the offense, and Michael Redd is averaging 17.2 points a game in his last five.

“These last four or five games, I mean, they’ve carried us,” forward Jared Dudley said of the second unit. “They’ve carried the starters, they’ve done well.”

The starting unit hasn’t looked so sharp, as players like Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley have struggled with their consistency. The Suns can’t afford that to continue if they hope to knock off the Grizzlies tonight.

Start with swagger and keep it. Whether it be banging with Speights and Gasol in the paint, or keeping Rudy Gay out of the lane, Phoenix can’t allow the Grizzlies to beat them by sheer physicality. It comes in rebounding, hustles plays — everything really. This is one of those opponents where, if Phoenix comes out flat, they’ll end up getting blown out simply because Memphis won’t let up.

  • A-ROCK

    Good article, I think you are being bias by saying the Suns will get blown out if they come off flat. Which is a possibilty considering the Suns starters in question. But I have faith they will be fine as long as everyone plays there A game which includes the 2nd unit which can keep them in the game and cause the 1st unit to ride the pine, which isn’t a bad thing considering the Suns are deep when hitting on all cylinders. The number one important key in the game I wish you would have mentioned is how the coach will bring in his bench and make continued substitions during the game. I would like for the Memphis Grizzles to have to play the Suns game and have to try and match up with them rather than the other way around. I guarentee the Suns loss if the coaches don’t let the team play as they played in Minnesotta. So we’ll see…… Good Luck Phoenix Suns, the Highlight of the Valley, And that’s not like you guys need it! ;)

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    The suns need to win the rest of the games coming up. No way around it, lose one and its over.

  • Scott

    (After the game:) Telfair is playing far better than I’ve ever seen him play.

    Dudley, Frye, and Gortat are playing like good bench players, not starters.

  • http://www.quantumunitsed.com Beedie Savage

    So sad. Why put the starters back in when they played horrible. Bench Nash if he continues to turn over the ball. Telfair had the tempo pushed up enough to disrupt the Grizzlies. Nash is just to slow these days and to many mistakes. Bad coaching decisions.

  • A-ROCK

    Can anyone say new Coach?

    I didn’t think Nash would ever lose a game for us but he is looking like a real liability. Poor Basty sitting on the sideline knowing he could do better. :(

    Now every one knows Nash is a liability in the defense area which is 50% of the game, he is now getting 5 turnovers before the end of the 3rd quarter and can’t make a shot.
    Is it a conspiracy why Alvin has to play him in the fourth quarter?

    He has sat him before in the 4th when there up.
    He looked way to slow out there against the faster point guards in memphis.
    He walked the ball up the court with 3 minutes left down by 9 points.
    All these things are unacceptable any other player would have been benched after 3 turnovers and not considering his bad shooting night.

    The coaching is disgusting.

    He brought in Slow Gortat in also who looks confused on defense also.
    The Substitutions are not good.

    I am glad he at least sat French Fry after his mistakes and non confidence Why not Nash?
    Fry is again blowing in his hands showing a sign of no confidence.

    Why did the coach play Redd and Brown together with Nash?

    Again The upside of Nash is 35% good and 65% bad for this team.
    turnovers, loss of composure, giving up, slow, no defense, bad shots, dribbling to much, is not adding up to the assists he gets considering that is all he is looking for is a good pass even when he is able to take that shot.

    I think that is selfish of him to try to be the best assist guy in the league when that is all he wants to do.
    He is taking away from the hunger his teammates have on winning by force feeding them all the time like he is the almighty on the court feeding his children, it’s just disgusting to me.

    Not comparing Sabastian to Nash (since I don’t want to argue my point with a couple die hard Nash supporters tonight) but his game tonight deserved more playing time, especially with all that aggression on D, assists and shot selection.

    So is Gentry just trying to ride the Nash era wave and end his career here on a good note with Nash?! IDK

    I question Gentry’s coaching and him not so called riding the hot hand as he said he does.

    I don’t think he is a good coach if he is going to ride the hot hand from the previous game and not the current one.