Preview: Phoenix Suns (7-11) at Memphis Grizzlies (12-3)

Memphis Grizzlies 108, Phoenix Suns 98 OT



The first five games of the Suns’ six-game road trip have been absolutely brutal.  Thus far, they’ve dropped close games to Philadelphia and Toronto, looked overmatched against the Knicks, and suffered one of their worst losses in franchise history to Detroit. Their sole win came against a Cleveland team playing without its best player.

Nothing seems to have gone right for Phoenix since its overtime win against New Orleans on Nov. 23. The Suns are four games under .500 in the midst of what most assumed was a soft opening schedule. And now they are set to face the Grizzlies, who are tied with Miami for the best record in the NBA.

Memphis has more than earned its stellar record. They are best in the league in defensive efficiency, according to John Hollinger. They’re also 11th in offensive efficiency.

The Grizzlies’ strength on the offensive end comes from its outstanding frontcourt trio of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay. These three average more than 51 points per game, making Memphis the league leader in frontcourt scoring. Defensively, Memphis is as strong on the perimeter as they are in the paint, allowing a paltry 0.96 points per possession. For all their size and tenacity inside, the Grizzlies are actually middle-of-the-pack in both rebounds (41.8 rpg) and blocks (5.3 bpg). The Suns will have to exploit both areas if they are to contend in this game.

How the Suns a fare in the paint will likely depend on Marcin Gortat’s performance. Against the Knicks and last year’s DPOY Tyson Chandler, Marcin put up 18 points and 10 boards. It was the first time he had grabbed double-figure rebounds in 10 games. Gortat has been Jekyll and Hyde all season, but especially on this road trip. He managed only six points against both the Cavs and the Pistons. He’s looked lost and over-matched on the offensive end in more games already this season than all of last year. Defensively, he’s been lackadaisical at best and completely disengaged at worst. In the past, Marcin has let physical teams like Memphis take him completely out of the game. Phoenix will have no chance in this contest if Marcin allows that to happen. He must be assertive and tough against Gasol and Randolph.

Another key player for the Suns tonight is Jared Dudley. Dudley has quietly shot 54.5 percent from the field on this road trip after shooting better than 50 percent in only two games previously. He has made some small strides from his disastrous early season form, but he still has a long way to go. Dudley must continue to work hard to get open and take more shots if he is to be respected as a true 3-point threat. If he can be effective tonight, things will open up offensively inside for Gortat, Scola, and Beasley.

The final key for Phoenix is Goran Dragic. Though the Suns have been disappointing, Dragic has been a bright spot. The Dragon currently ranks 23rd in the league with a PER of 21.61. That mark is 3.6 points better than his previous career high. Although the hope coming into the year was that Goran would average 18 points and 8 assists, his numbers are still great given the dysfunction that has surrounded him for the most of the season.

What has been most impressive about Dragic’s game is his ability to penetrate and finish at the tim. Although the onus is always on him to facilitate ball movement on offense, Dragic and the Suns would both be better served if he took more shots and penetrated more often. Mike Conley will be a handful on both ends of the court, but Dragic has more size and enough quickness to get by him. When Phoenix’s offense bogs down, Dragic has to be assertive, demand the ball, and make something happen for his team.

Though this trip has been filled with disappointing results, the Suns have a chance to put a positive stamp on it by hanging with the Grizzlies tonight and stealing a game on their home court. At this point in the year, the Suns have to look at every game as a chance to prove themselves and get their season moving in a positive direction.

Tags: Memphis Grizzlies Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • m.i.milliman

    This one could get ugly. I think the Grizz are the best in the West right now. Possibly the league.

    Go Suns!

  • Voqar

    Incoming massacre.

    Boneheaded Beasleyisms won’t cut it at all against top tier teams. Morris does his share of head scratchers and as a team it’s amazing how often things like being out of bounds when receiving a pass, taking horrific shots that lead to immediate fast break points for the opponent, travelling and other blunders occur – in every game.

    I’m not even sure these present Suns are capable of the stealth type win where a lesser team surprises a stronger team that takes the lesser team for granted. I doubt Memphis is capable of the type of no-show/collapse PHX would require to beat them.


    Recording and watching this game would be an exercise in masocism but I’m still considering it. It’s kind of like one of those train wreck disaster situations where you just can’t turn away even though you’re about to vomit.

  • Ty-Sun

    I don’t think this team is as bad as a lot of people seem to. Yes they are outmatched by Memphis and I will be shocked if they actually win tonight. But, as I said, I don’t think they are really so bad that they can’t put up a good fight if they really try and keep from making too many dumb mistakes.

    The team does have talent but I think it is lacking in BBIQ in a lot of players. It has no “go-to” guy so there’s no easy choice of just getting the ball to ____ and too many people are trying to make things happen themselves even if it isn’t a smart play to make. And this team isn’t going to get much better until they find that “go-to” guy.

  • Yohance

    I have not posted on here for quite some time
    mainly because I was curious of how the suns would start out this season especially without the leadership of Nash and Hill
    which it is evident how important they were for our organization. I know we must move on so enough dwelling on the past. I think Gentry has to find the right combinations of players in which he is the most comfortable with and play them. I actually like the thought of playing Telfair/Marshall, Dragic/Brown, Dudley/Tucker, Scola/Beasley, J. Oneal/Gortat, Morris and Wesley Johnson can get time at 4/5 and 2/3 respectively. I think Dragic should actually be our go to scorer as a starting 2 guard. Sort of like Manu Ginobli of the Spurs. I think he has too much on his plate and will get worn down like Nash often did, which by the way he is no Nash. But he has a better knack for getting up into the other guy on defense and slashing to the basket. What are your thoughts?

  • john

    I’d actually give the Suns a fighting chance tonight. I don’t think I’d throw a whole lot of money down on them, but I think they might surprise us and put up a good fight, maybe even steal a win.

  • Landon

    I heard that Telfair is a scratch tonight, is that true? Interesting to see how Garrett does in the backup role

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    It is true and it’s a pitty that Marshall has been sent down to D-League right now…

  • Victor

    They should try Beas at the 4.. I wish they would play WJ… I really think he can do some damage… Also, i heard that Garrett is a decent playet with a lot of speed.. Can anyone give me some insight on garret? Never seen him play..

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    Nice 1st quarter!

  • m.i.milliman

    @ Yohance.

    You’re absolutely right, I said it many times that Dragic is much more like ManuG than any other player in the league. It would be awesome to see him play with a guy like Bledsoe. If I were the front office, I would be making that my number one priority, get someone like that to play with Dragic.

  • john

    The last three minutes of the 2nd quarter are why I hate gentry so much. He needs to use his timeouts. Terrible coaching. Terrible.

  • john

    Another example, not using the last timeout before scola’s clear path foul, then using it AFTER the grizz ft’s and possession with 50.8 in the game still. If you’re not going to use it at 1:20, why use it at 50?

  • Luka

    Suns played hard but damn Memphis made some tough shots. Zach Randolph pulled a Charles Barkley circa 1993 tonight.

    Scola proved why he should be starting again. He had some crafty moves. The banker over Randolph was really impressive.

    Beasley was just flat out awful. Gentry’s got to get him on the bench. He’s hurting the Suns right now. I just don’t know why Gentry keeps putting him back in to be honest.

    I thought Jermaine O’Neal played well again. He should’ve also been on the floor in OT when the Suns couldn’t buy a basket.

    One Dragic FT, and a loose rebound or two going the Suns way, and Phoenix wins it. Very frustrating loss.

  • Scott

    @Yohance and Luka -

    I agree.

  • Yohance

    Like I stated earlier Gentry needs to mix up his line ups.
    I now this team has talent if they use it correctly. I would try to use Dragic as our go to scorer and utilize his strengths which I believe are similar to Manu Ginobli and not Nash.
    He still can make assist when the defense tries to focus on him. But he better suited as a 2 guard.

    Telfair/Marshall or Garret
    Dragic/Brown/W. Johnson

    We need to play according to our players strengths and
    that means don’t play Gortat and Scola together because they both they seam to clash. I think Telfair,Dragic,Dudley,Scola,Oneal works. Dragic and Scola will be our main scorers. Telfair, Dudley, and Oneal can chip in and do what they do best play smart physical basketball. On the bench Gortat and Brown will be the primary scorers. Marshall should he able to facilitate and has played with Morris before. He needs experience and we drafted him so use him or trade him and let Garrett get his min.

  • BCrayZ

    Good job Ryan.

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