Preview: Phoenix Suns (16-32) at Memphis Grizzlies (30-16)

Posted by on February 5th, 11:35 am

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Time: 6 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

Records thrown out the window, the Phoenix Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies tend to put on pretty good shows.

The Suns have lost by double-digits twice at the hands of Lionel Hollins’ team this season, but one of those came in overtime and needed Zach Randolph to pour in 38 points. A third game this year saw Phoenix pull off a 82-80 victory.

It was the type of game that a talent-lacking squad led by Lindsey Hunter could use as a framework for that winning culture, although in second-to-last place in the Western Conference, it’ll be more of a foundation – OK, it’s probably more of the leveling of the dirt for the foundation. Phoenix will again face the Grizzlies on Tuesday, this time in the FedExForum against a new-look team.

Memphis is just a game into the post-Rudy Gay era as far as its full roster goes. And the Grizzlies have already been given a good reason to feel better that the trade wasn’t simply a cost-cutting move.

Former Detroit Piston forward Tayshaun Prince made his debut on Friday in a 85-76 win against the Washington Wizards, scoring eight clutch points in the fourth quarter and coming off the bench to score 14 total. It’s quite possible Prince, after a gap between games, will enter the starting lineup for the first time in Memphis as the Grizzlies face the Suns. He would likely replace backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, who was starting in the backcourt with Mike Conley.

As usual, the Suns could use a heavy dose of Luis Scola in this game. And it’s good news for the Suns that they’re hitting the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph in a big-time slump. The All-Star has combined for just 20 points in the last three games, but he’s making no excuses for the issues that could stem from a lingering back injury, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

In what has sometimes been a surprisingly even series this season, the Memphis perspective could perhaps determine if the loss of Gay – he has taught Suns forward P.J. Tucker the widely-known lesson of great offense beating great defense – will be a noticeable factor in close-game situations.

Marcin Gortat misses Steve Nash

An interview with HoopsWorld gave Marcin Gortat a chance to discuss the Suns’ woes, and within it there are a few odd discrepancies. One thing that is pretty clear is Gortat misses Steve Nash. The Polish big man was adamant at media day that he would prove to be just as productive following Nash’s departure, but with his numbers taking large hits this season, he’s finally come to realize that life is more difficult without Two-Time.

“I don’t think that’s a problem with Coach right now,” Gortat told HoopsWorld, going on to say the players on the roster are what they are, hinting they can’t necessarily change. “It’s much harder for guys to get an open shot (this year without Nash), an open look and each one of us has to work for every point twice as hard.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily all about Coach, there’s a lot of things going on that influences my performance, so it’s hard to say.”

Of course, a follow-up question asks Gortat if he believes point guard Goran Dragic can go from an attack-first point guard to more of a distributor. Gortat’s answer sort of goes into confusing territory, and it becomes unclear if he criticizing Dragic, coaches or simply the roster as a whole.

“He’s got to work on it,” Gortat told HoopsWorld of Dragic. “It all depends on the coaches, they got to put on the pressure, they got to do what they got to do, they got to talk to him. It’s not me or anybody on the team, each one of us is trying to play basketball and he plays basketball the way he plays, he does what he does the best. He’s an aggressive scoring point guard and it is what it is, I can’t deny it.”

All in all, the interview sort of feels like Gortat is frustrated — that’s not surprising — but it’s hard to point to what exactly he’s frustrated about. It gives off a sense of hopelessness because of what we all probably know. The Suns’ roster isn’t very good, and there’s not much any player or coach can do when that’s the case.

For more context, there is a video of interview on the HoopsWorld page.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Memphis Grizzlies · Phoenix Suns Preview

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jimmy // Feb 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

    maybe his stats would be up if he made the 100+ shots from 6 inches to the rim fed by Dragic

  • 2 Forever is2long // Feb 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Yeah Jimmy he is kind of soft on his finishes. While he continues to be a good rebounder and shot blocker (over 1.5 a game) he blows a lot of close range shots. Playing 32 minutes a night I would think he could average more than 11 points a night. Then again I do not think he has a very good back to the basket game which explains why he relied heavily on Nash. He is shooting 52% from the field which isn’t bad but it is not exceptional either. I cannot believe in the offseason he was talking about wearing the same number jersey Nash wore. He is unjustifiably arrogant IMO.

  • 3 Azbballfan // Feb 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Gortat needs to be moved for salary reasons, or young players or future talent

    Either way, it seems like he would be happier somewhere else

    I cant really blame him considering the front office is a mess right now

    but given his contract, production, and age, he would great for a contender

    I would love to see Gortat go to basket more and actually finish with a dunk unstead of a layup

    i wonder if its possible to track how many layups the Suns have missed this season, i bet its a ton

    If Memphis comes out and brings their A game this is likely a suns loss, especially on the road

    only michael beasley could appreciate our 4 wins 20 losses on the road so far

  • 4 Serek // Feb 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I think what Gortat is trying to say is that playing without Nash is harder for everyone. Nash was a genuine threat – he could score from downtown, attack the rim, but especially run the defense in circles, into the picks and find open guys. And teams had to plan against him. The team was not successful the last few seasons, because others couldn’t execute (and defend).
    Now Nash is gone, and the team is just average, there’s nobody that would draw a double-team in any circumstance. Dragic defends better and is more athletic, but he has neither respect nor consistency to get guys open. The opponents just guard their man and seldom need to double or rotate. And we do not have a good iso player for that to work.

  • 5 IowaPhXfan // Feb 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    The funny thing is I don’t think this team is any better if you replace Dragic with Nash. MAYBE a game or two. We don’t have near enough good shooters on this team to utilize Nash’s passing abilities….also Dragic is a much better defender.

    The main difference in my opinion between a .500 team last year and the worst team in the West is that we replaced Hill, Frye, and Redd’s minutes with Scola, Beasley, and Tucker.

    Hill, Frye, and Redd create great spacing. I’m not really sure what our new guys do besides clog up the lane or go flying towards the basket with no particular plan.

    We have no floor spacers. Plain and simple. Give Dragic guys who can hit a jumper and he’d be averaging 18 & 8 instead of 14 & 6. Last year during his great stretch to end the year Dragic had Martin, Lee, Budinger, & Parsons.

    We have Dudley……and Dudley.

  • 6 bk // Feb 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Lie……if the excuse is only Nash, why Gortat rebound also drops this year?

  • 7 Jimmy // Feb 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    this ^IowaPhXfan
    and
    this ^bk

  • 8 Serek // Feb 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I looked up Gortat’s rebounding stats @ basketball-reference.com and his Total RB% is 15.9 vs 17.6 last season. Where does it come from? DefRB% is more or less the same (24.3% vs 25%). His OffRB% did drop a bit more (7.8% vs 10%). Why is that? Maybe there are less shots to rebound. Maybe the misses are so bad that guards have more rebounds. Maybe the paint is now packed with nobody to space the floor.

    But perhaps he just puts less energy and focus into the game. Not the only one on this team and not the first.

  • 9 Forever is2long // Feb 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    One of the articles today discusses Prince and the Grizzlies welcome the Suns to town. Are you kidding me, the Grizzlies probably sent a special limo with their best driver to make certain we get there without incident.

  • 10 Tony // Feb 5, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    @IowaPhxfan,

    how can you claim that the Suns would be no better off in terms of their record, or 1 of 2 games better, if they had Nash instead of Dragic, when Nash took the Suns to a .500 record last season, while Dragic has them currently at a .333 record? Additionally, it’s not as if Dragic is playing with an inferior roster compared with last season either. Overall, this Suns team is actually more talented and deeper than last season’s team.

    I’m not suggesting that they would be a contending team if Nash was still a Sun, but I definitely believe they would be hovering around .500 for the season.

    Nor is Dragic a much better defender either. He is just as bad as Nash was on pick-and-rolls and he gets chewed up by quick pgs just as Nash did.

    Lastly, Hill and Redd missed much of the previous season and Frye went down to injury in the latter part of the season too. So the team didn’t have the floor spacers they needed for the majority of the season. And Hill doesn’t even qualify as an outside threat. His only slightly above aveage shot from distance was the corner 3 and even then, he wasn’t exactly a marksman from there.

  • 11 Tony // Feb 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    @bk,

    To echo what Serek stated, Gortat’s declining rebounding rate, as compared to last season, probably has much to do with less energy and effort as a result of not being utilized to his strength on the offensive-end. He’s a strong p&r player, but this Suns team rarely utilizes that play for whatever reason. It’s only natural that he would lose some of his intensity and effort level considering not only is he lacking touches from the p&r, based on the team’s record, it’s not as if the team is being successful using the different offense.

  • 12 phxfaninla // Feb 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Career night for marshall. He looks great and his shooting is much improved. Whats this mean for bassy?

  • 13 Sillmarillion // Feb 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Anyone watching the game right now? It’s just plain obvious that Marshall can be a 10x better PG than Dragic!

  • 14 IowaPhXfan // Feb 6, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Seriously? First off, Frye played the entire season and Hill/Redd both played 3/4 the season. As for Hill, no he wasn’t a huge floor spacer but he could run the floor, hit the mid range jumper, and also was a great defender in guarding the other teams best wing.
    Go checkout the worst 3pt shooting teams in the league. Oh I’ll help you out -> Phx, Minn, Char, Chi, Memph…..coincidence all these teams have very limited outside shooting and all rank near the bottom in ppg? Umm no. Chi & Mem get by on their superior rebounding and defense.
    Do you realize how much a difference one guy who can space the floor helps out your offense? We lost our 132 3ps from last year (Frye & Redd) and replaced that with zero 3pt shooters….
    Also, Morris having a huge sophomore slump isn’t helping anything. Down 8% on threes to a woeful 27%.
    Ask Rubio how things are going in Minn with Love & Buddinger injured and no outside shooting. Minn has been a trainwreck this year because Love has been hurt but when he was playing he was horrid from three.
    I’m sorry but there is no chance this team would be .500 if we only replaced Dragic with Nash. Add a healthy Frye to that? Ok maybe a chance at .500 then.
    Don’t forget we also lost RoLo, big dropoff in rebounding and defense compared to Scola.
    Give me Frye, Hill, Redd, & RoLo any day of the week over Scola, Beas, O’Neal, & Tucker. It’s not even a debate!
    Nash doesn’t magically turn guys into 3pt shooters. His main strength is getting the ball to big guys on pick n rolls and in the post. So I guess we’d be getting a lot more of Scola & Gortat mid range jumpers….which they both shoot about 43% on. If that doesn’t get ya excited I don’t know what will….

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