PHOENIX – The Suns want to run, but on Thursday they were fine with grinding with the Grizzlies. Mental toughness isn’t the issue.
Through a flurry of technical fouls in the fourth quarter and a series of runs by both teams, Phoenix remained close in a 99-91 loss at U.S. Airways Center.
Goran Dragic was without backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe – he was out as precaution with a sprained knee – but put in a gutty performance. He scored 33 points, had seven assists and recorded four steals, and often found himself blazing past the Grizzlies. Dragic hit two crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Grizzlies from running away with it.
Poor shooting from the field and at the foul line hurt the Suns, but so did the rebounding issues. Physical toughness might be the problem. The Suns lost that battle by 18 and despite running so often against Memphis gave up too many points in the paint while hitting just 8-of-29 from three-point land.
How do the Suns stop Zach Randolph?
The Suns may not matchup well with Randolph, who scored 20 points and grabbed 15 boards, but in the first half they failed to make him work on the other end. The perfect example of how they could attack came on the final possession of the first quarter, when Phoenix ran two pick-and-rolls with Markieff Morris being defended by Randolph. On the first, Morris drifted atop the three-point arc and missed a wide open three. After an offensive board, Morris scored on a similar play but instead of a long shot, pumped Randolph and scored on a bank shot driving to the hoop.
Memphis built a 53-41 lead at halftime, but the Suns charged out of the gates with a 21-4 burst in the first four minutes of the third. The run included two three-pointers by Channing Frye, who to that point hadn’t been utilized as he should have in making Randolph defend.
Frye finished with 14 points but he and Miles Plumlee, who had 12 rebounds and three blocks, got pushed around by Randolph.
It wasn’t just about Z-Bo. The Phoenix bench was a significant drop-off from the starting unit. Unlike before, the lack of size bit the Suns more than it has most games. The Morris twins were outboarded by the duo of Ed Davis and James Johnson. That duo combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds to the Morris twins’ 12 and six.
Dragic and Bledsoe face a stiff test. How will they do against a strong defensive duo?
As noted above, Dragic absolutely shined but appeared to wear down come crunch time.
Bledsoe was held out after suffering a minor knee sprain against the Los Angeles Clippers. He was originally tabbed to start on Thursday but was a late scratch. Gerald Green started in his place and got off to a quick start by hitting the first bucket of the game, a three-pointer.
Will Gerald Green ever cool off?
In the scoring realm, yes. Green didn’t have the biggest of games with nine points on 1-for-7 three-point shooting but he wasn’t playing poorly, however. During the Suns’ third quarter in which they outscored the Grizzlies 32-16, he had two heads-up passes up the floor. On the second one, he even went up for a shot at the foul stripe but saw P.J. Tucker hunkered down under the basket for a layup. It was that kind of roll for Phoenix, but ultimately, the second quarter by Memphis was too much to overcome, especially without Bledsoe’s help.