Memphis Grizzlies 99, Phoenix Suns 91 — Ground out


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.

To the questions posed in Jeff Sanders’ preview.

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.

  • AL

    Man, Markieff and Frye are just too soft against bigs like Randolph. It’s a good thing many teams have PF’s that play Face Up nowadays. Dragic was on fire, but it’s hard to carry a team when your teammates are just shooting 3′s and keep missing.

  • RealSunsFansSayNoToKoolAidDrinking

    You fans are wishy-washy:

    Everytime the Suns win, you guys talk all high and mighty…..

    Everytime the Suns lose, the same complaints come out and the same players names are thrown around for who you would like to see go…..

    If the Memphis Grizzzzzzzzlies can outplay the Suns at their place, you know theres problems with this roster. This Suns team is no different than DAntonis SSOL team with the exception that they occasionally play defense, and dont have a true PF

  • RealSunsFansSayNoToKoolAidDrinking

    But they jack up a whole lot of silly shots!!!!

    And when theyre on theyre on, and when theyre not they play like garbage, all promos aside.

    Is Bledsoe knee blown out or what?

  • Animan

    Guys, Memphis just has a good match-up against us. That’s twice now this season. Just like how the suns always seem to beat or come close to portland. It’s one game, without Bledsoe, and a discombobulated bench unit. Chillax

  • Dave:f32

    Bleacher Report recently did a mock draft and projected the Suns to have 4 picks in the 1st round of the NBA Draft. Here is their projections for the Suns:

    14. Phoenix Suns (Via Minnesota, Top-13 Protected): Dario Saric, Croatia, 6’10”, PF

    18. Phoenix Suns (Via Washington): Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6’6”, SF, So.

    23. Phoenix Suns: Olivier Hanlan, Boston College, 6’4”, PG/SG, So.

    29. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, 6’1”, PG, Sr.

    What do you guys think about these players?

    Personally, I think there should be two PF prospects picked that would make practices competitive while the youngsters come around to learning the ropes, and raise each young players game.

  • Dave:f32

    Whats interesting is the combo guard projection of Olivier Hanlan, as either a telling sign that Dragic or Bledsoe are gone from the team by that time? Who knows!

  • SJose

    Suns were close but we lost this game when Dragic had to sit right after we made our run. The bench guys didn’t hold the lead, but it was still a good effort. No shame in losing to the bruising, Tony Allen led defense of the Grizz.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    To think that Dragic or Bledsoe are going to be traded because Bleacher Report projects the Suns taking a combo guard with the 23rd pick is delusional.

    However….Hanlan is a nice looking prospect.

    Dario Saric ?….Haven’t seen him play but the track record of Euro Big Men is shaky at best.

  • robzilla34

    Gentleman, tonights loss was simply the case of our two worse repeating traits, 1) we get killed on the offensive glass 2) we ignore the free throw line and keep jacking 3′ s. Memphis is great at taking advantage of those two things incidentally. Markieff not rebounding, Marcus not shooting well, and the 13 attempts PJ had to put up are the exception, not the rule. We bricked a ton of open looks, jared bayless made some ridiculous junk to impress his ex girlfriends who drove down from Tucson, and James Johnson had his best game in two years, all without bledsoe. its the NBA, weird shit happens all the time. We’ re still ballin.

  • J

    Although the Morris brothers have elevated their play this year, I don’t think that they are the right pieces for this team if we are going to compete for a championship. We have both Marcus and Gerald Green coming off the bench who just want to jack up 3s and while it works if they are making them, in games like tonight when neither of them are making shots it becomes a glaring weakness… If we could trade the Morri and a draft pick for a starting SF and have P.J. in the 2nd unit it could help keep the team from just running down and jacking up a questionable 3 almost every possession. As far as a possible trade, we could see if Harrison Barnes is available, who may possibly be in a situation similar to the Clips and Bledsoe. I also think we need a big guy who can rebound and is more polished offensively than Plumlee. So we could trade Frye, Okafor, and a package of picks from this year and/or next, for Love or Monroe, or another established big we could get our hands on.

  • foreveris2long

    Did not see the game but it appears our inability to effectively defend the low post and the absence of Bledsoe were factors in this loss. Most of us knew of the imperfections of the team so we will get exposed some nights. Hey when NY Knicks can beat Spurs and Nets beat OKC, things happen. No problem, let’s lace them up Saturday and gas the Bucks. Another fine effort by Dragic.

  • Dave:f32

    @Hawki, thanks for the input! Delusion is a state of mind and i dont think its too far-fetched to bring up the topic even though the source and timing of a baseless article are far from the draft. We shall soon find out what the executive branch of Phx wants the direction of the team to move in with the impending trade deadline looming.

    I agree with ur assessment of the draft picks they projected though. I would also imagine that the suns could trade up in the draft to get to a more safer higher pick. Probably couple pick/s and/or vets to get a 5-7th pick, possibly??

  • Sunsn7

    The Suns are who I thought they were!

  • john

    @dave

    I’d like to see best player available more than anything, no matter what position that happens to be. You’re right that PF’s would be nice though.

  • john

    & @Kool-Aid

    Why do people like you bother? “Real” fans support their team. “Real” fans have camaraderie. I see a ton of “real” fans here. You’re the only one who doesn’t appear to be one.

  • Solarion

    Remember when the SUNS got knocked out the playoffs that one year, and Cotton said we need to get us a Charles Barkley, then they went out and got him? The following year the SUNS were set to open up America West Arena for the first time, Cotton walked Charles into the arena and told him that the place was sold out even before he arrived, so, he couldn’t change that, but he pointed to the rafters and said; we lack a title, that you can change.

    Well, here we are again; we need a Charles Barkley to advance to the next tier, we need a low post presence, a scorer and rebounder. Or continue losing the war in the paint.

  • john

    @Solarion

    Agreed. I know neither of them are extremely likely, but I want LMA or K-Love. I know a lot of people are saying there’s no way K-Love is going to happen, but I wouldn’t put anything past McD at this point. If he can turn Jared Dudley into Eric Bledsoe, I’m pretty sure he can convince K-Love to force his way out of Minny.

  • Sunsn7

    You said it Solarion…no retreads though!

  • Voqar

    That was a brutal game to behold. It’s a game the suns could have and should have won. They didn’t play with energy or heart and were ultra sloppy.

    5 secs out of bounds, failed inbounds, all kinds of little mental things that you almost never see in any NBA game. It’s like, could you wake the eff up and play NBA caliber ball? Pull your heads out?

    As usual, this forum has ridiculous trade talk and fortunately the FO isn’t as delusional or ridiculous.

  • john

    Ridiculous trades happen every season. Perhaps the Suns’ players aren’t the only ones who need to “pull their head out.” ;P