Memphis Grizzlies 104, Phoenix Suns 99 – Another second half fade

Another game against the Grizzlies. Another poor second-half effort from the Suns. Another loss for Phoenix who fell 104-99 at the FedEx Forum tonight. This game was split in two for the Suns. Over the first 30 minutes, Phoenix shot over 52% from the floor and 60% from downtown (9-of-15). Halfway through the third, they led the Grizz by 7 points and looked to be fully in control of the game. The frontcourt was hanging tough on the boards, and making Zach Randolph work hard for his points (7-of-18 from the floor.) The backcourt was raining threes and keeping Memphis on its heels defensively. But then the momentum of the game completely flipped and everything that had been working for the Suns began to work against them.

Over the final 18 minutes of the game, the Suns fell in love with the 3-ball, but the 3-ball did not love them back. Phoenix went just 2-for-15 from downtown including an 0-for-5 stretch by Channing Frye. Phoenix shot just 25% from the floor in the final quarter and a half, allowing Memphis to erase their lead and eventually overtake them for the win.

Worse than the Suns frigid shooting was the way their defense collapsed in the latter part of the game. Tired legs led to wide open jumpshots. Though the Grizzlies always had one or two inept offensive players on the floor, the Suns did not even try to double team Z-Bo in the post or throw another defender at Mike Conley on the perimeter. Coach Hornacek’s failure to adjust his defensive plan as Memphis was gaining ground is as much to blame for this loss as the Suns cold shooting.

For more on this disappointing loss, let’s answer our three preview questions.

Can the Suns win the points in the paint battle?

An emphatic no. The Suns were absolutely abused inside getting outscored in the paint 52-32. They also gave up 14 offensive rebounds. Much of the Suns paint scoring deficit was built early in the game when second chance points helped keep Memphis close. Zach Randolph ended the night with 20 points and 13 boards. He and Ed Davis combined for 30 rebounds, 10 of which were the offensive variety. For most of this game, Phoenix’s frontcourt was powerless on the glass against Randolph and Co.

As I posited in the preview, the Suns went big for most of the first half. The Morris’ didn’t play in the first quarter at all. Channing Frye played all 12 minutes matched up against Z-Bo, and Alex Len spelled Miles Plumlee late in the first and in the early part of the second. I actually like the defensive effort of the Suns on Randolph. They blocked his shot at least four times, including one by Len, and forced him into 12 missed shots overall. But as is Memphis’ philosophy, Zach will grit and grind his defenders down, and eventually get his point. The issue for Phoenix inside wasn’t really Randolph, it was whoever was playing alongside him. Plumlee and the Morris twins were a bit hapless inside when they weren’t matched up on Z-Bo. They allowed Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis to combine for 18 points, many of which were wide open looks and dunks. The painted area is the focus of the Grizzlies offense, so they’re going to get their points there, but the Suns’ big men could have done more to make the lesser Grizzlies’ big men work for their points.

What it really came down to for the Suns was Channing Frye. When he was making Z-Bo work and knocking down shots early, he gave the Suns a huge advantage. When he went ice cold down the stretch, he was a liability who shot the Suns out of the game. Markieff Morris chipped in 9 points in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix stay competitive but those came on 12 shots. He finished with 17 points overall. Kieff has to get more comfortable putting his head down and getting to the rim. He settles for midrange jumpers too often. Alex Len once again looked much improved both on offense and defense, but he did not play at all in the second half.

Which bench unit will shine brighter?

The Suns’ bench barely edged out Memphis’ in scoring 37-31. The Morris twins had 26 of those points, while new hire Leandro Barbosa showed flashes of his former self with four points on two very pretty floaters. With Eric Bledsoe set to miss significant time, Barbosa should be a welcome and calming influence for this team. He looks to have some if not all of the speed that earned him the Brazilian Blur nickname. He was a solid secondary ball handler in this game, a good sign of things moving forward.

In reality though, the Suns actually lost the battle of the benches. Though they outscored Memphis’ reserves, they also conceded ground to the Grizzlies every time the Phoenix starters went off the floor. Every one of Phoenix’s reserves was on the negative side of plus/minus while all of the Grizzlies’ bench players were on the positive side. Ed Davis, Nick Calathes, and new addition Courtney Lee played very hard and very efficiently. They were a serious change of pace from the plodding starters and the Suns did not have an answer for them.

Can Dragic carry the team once again?

Dragic once again gave his best effort, and once again it was not enough to beat the Grizz. Goran finished with 21 points on just 10 shots. He added eight assists and committed only one turnover. But he played just 32 minutes. I’m not sure if Dragic was exhausted of if Coach Hornacek was just conserving his energy. But the Suns could certainly have used a bit more of him when the Grizzlies were clawing their way back into the game in the fourth.

The one place Dragic was not stellar was on defense. He could do absolutely nothing to stay in front of Conley who ended the night with 31 points. Dragic was asked to do a lot in this game, so I’m not sure why Coach Hornacek didn’t put P.J. Tucker onto Conley until the final minute of the game. Tucker spent most of the game on Tayshaun Prince, who isn’t really much of a threat at this point in his career. Dragic was good, but Conley was better.

Tags: Memphis Grizzlies Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • ShanMan

    The Suns are going to eventually need someone who can consistently score in the paint or else they are going to continue to lose to teams with solid defense like Memphis and Chicago. Most of the players on this team can’t attack the basket like Dragic can, and without Bledsoe now it’s going to be live and die by the jumpshot. At least with Bledsoe and Dragic both attacking it created openings not only from deep but also made room for players to roate and slash to the hoop on the weak side. You can only try to outrun and outshoot the opponent for so long against teams like these. Hmm, seems that no matter who runs this team, the roster, the coach, the Suns have the same weaknesses. Poor interior defense, poor rebounding, and poor high percentage shot selection. This team is full of young budding talent, but they need a crunch time grinder in the painted area.

  • DBreezy

    So my understanding is that Bled had his meniscus removed, not repaired. Wasn’t that the big decision the Thunder had with Westbrook last summer? A repair purportedly being better for his long term health vs a removal albeit with a longer recovery time. I seem to remember them hinting that removal is something usually done with older player whose have a more worn meniscus(like me!) I hope they don’t rush him back and I hope the medical staff gets a good look at him before the summer.

  • J

    I believe, but could be wrong, that removing the meniscus can cause problems later in life for players. I read something somewhere that Blake Griffin had his meniscus removed in college, which was around 5 years ago. Obviously everyones body reacts to things differently, but having it removed doesn’t necessarily mean problems for Bledsoe in his future as an NBA player.

  • Luka

    In addition to bricking jumpers, the Suns missed a lot of easy layups. Combine that with their inability to contain Conley and that’s the ball game right there.

    I’m annoyed that Archie Goodwin’s minutes have been cut. He could’ve been helpful against Conley late.

    I’m all in favor of shipping Frye or the Morris bros out of here ASAP. The next move is yours McDonough.

  • GoSuns

    Dwade had one of his removed in college also and wished he could have done the repair approach Westbrook went through this summer

  • hawki

    Ish & LB get a combined 9 pts in 38 minutes while Archie is glued to the bench with 55 friends & relatives in the stands ?
    That had to hurt.

    Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson will soon be coming to laker games disguised as The Joker.
    lakers crushed by 40 to the clips with Kendall Marshall & Wes Johnson starting in the backcourt ?
    Expect the lakers to be top 5 in Ping-Pong balls by the end of the season.


    weisart quote—> “Coach Hornacek’s failure to adjust his defensive plan as Memphis was gaining ground is as much to blame for this loss as the Suns cold shooting.”..dude they play a simple semi effective defense..they never practice the double teaming and why would a coach tell a team to go out and do something they don’t know how to do?..and for you to blame a loss on that is just lazy..the rest of the article was spot on and for the record i think this is the only time I’ve ever rolled my eyes at one of your sentences..youre usually cool hand luke..youre better than that sentence

  • Tom Gugliotta

    Sign me I’ll help ya win a championship.

  • VK1

    Markieff make a damn lay-up! How many point blank shots has he missed this season, I remember one could have beating the Blazers. Markieff needs to be more aggressive when finishing plays, not only with that provide a spark, but it would help him earn some more money down the road. Ed Davis has out played Markieff in each of the three games this season.

  • sunsn7


    Damn it.

  • sunsn7

    Damn Goodwin had 55 people there to see him and Coach kept him on the bench?

    Hornacek, dont let this early success to go to your head. I know you will say stuff like “Archie needs to continue to work hard” and the like, but the whole point in playing him thus far was to give the youngster in-game experience.

    I surely dont know nearly enough about the nuances of the pro game when compared to a Jeff Hornacek but dont need to be a basketball genius to see what’s happening here.

  • johnfromtaiwan

    Gosh! It’s so difficult…I hope the Suns can keep piling up wins–which means I am afraid of them using new and inexperienced guys like Archie Goodwin, but I also hope that they can develop new guys like Archie Goodwin…..I really get stuck in a huge dilemma!!

  • Extra reading

    From ESPN Oct. 2,2013:

    “Dwyane Wade regrets 2002 surgery”

    PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — With hindsight, Dwyane Wade says surgery to remove the meniscus from his left knee 11 years ago while he was at Marquette led to the ongoing knee problems he’s had with the Miami Heat.

    Wade has battled chronic knee issues over his career. He needed a second surgery on his left knee in 2012 and has also battled bone bruises and tendinitis.

    Wade said that if more of a long-term approach was used when he had his meniscus surgery in 2002, following his sophomore season, he may not have as many issues today.

    “My knee problems and the things I’ve dealt with started from that,” Wade said. “That was [11] years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.

    “At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, ‘Dwyane’s going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,’ maybe I wouldn’t have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best.”

    Wade cited Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who earlier this year had his meniscus repaired but not removed, as taking the long run approach to such an injury. Westbrook needed another surgery this week because the Thunder said a loose stitch was causing swelling.

    “When Westbrook had his injury, they kind of saved his meniscus,” Wade said. “Mine was taken out, and that opens you up to having certain knee injuries and problems, so that’s what I’ve had to deal with. We have a great training staff and we have great doctors. Whatever way you look at it, I’m going into my 11th season, there’s lots of guys who haven’t made it this far.”

    Over the summer, Wade had OssaTron shockwave therapy on his knees to treat tendinitis, the second time in his career he’s used the treatment. Wade had surgery on his right knee in 2007. Because of his history, the Heat are cautious with Wade and over the past few seasons have given him selective rest when his knees have acted up. He’s been slowed during the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

    Nonetheless, Wade reported to training camp in excellent condition, a product of rest in July and part of August followed by a six-week training routine with longtime trainer Tim Grover. Wade plans to do two more weeks of private training with Grover after the Heat return from the Bahamas, even if he has to do the workouts late at night.

    “He’s extremely fit, he’s had a great camp so far,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s trying to win every drill.”

    Wade didn’t dress for last night’s great game between the Heat and Nets, stating they were resting him. Wade has missed about ten games this season already and has never played in all 82 games during his 11 year career. He has missed 30 games in three seasons and 20 games in a 4th.

    On the plus side, Shaun Livingston played like an All-NBA PG last night but it took him seven years and about ten different teams to get there after severly dislocating his knee.

  • the real al

    Trade the morris bros!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • XBandwagon Fan

    I feel like I should be ready to jump ship at any moment .

  • sunsn7

    :) nuff said