Suns Show Fight in Memphis – No, Literally

Feb 8, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Maybe it was the nearing of the full moon, or a pompous attitude by a well-traveled non-elite player, or a little frustration by a team on the verge of losing for the 37th time on the season, but with a little over a minute to go in a blowout – things finally got interesting.

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With his team up 103-88 with 1:12 remaining, Troy Daniels, a player on his forth team in five seasons, launched a three that a flying by Devin Booker fouled him on – the basket was good. Daniels took offense to…something…and with momentum taking Booker a good twenty feet from Daniels, Troy began to wax poetic his feelings on the very not so hard foul. In defense of their star teammate – and because they were much closer – both Tyler Ulis and Alan Williams confronted Daniels and the ten players on the floor broke out into a “I wish it was old school brawl but now it’s 2017 so I guess I’ll take what I can get,” brouhaha.

In case you missed it, here it is again:

Unfortunately for Suns fans, other than that little brush-up, there was very little be be excited about in this one, as the Grizzlies led for the final 44:38 of the game, and the Suns found themselves down by as many as 22 – a trend that seems to follow the Suns in every recent loss.

The only modicum of consistency for the Suns this season is their inconsistency, something that has plagued them and prevented the team from ever putting together a string of decent games in a row. The inconsistency begins with their shooting, the very problem that prevented the Suns from making a game of an intentionally depleted Memphis Grizzlies tonight.

Shooting 33.3% from the field, their worst field goal percentage of the year, the Suns managed only 29 buckets, beginning with a 5-15, 15 point first quarter – usually Phoenix’s best scoring quarter of the game. From the start, Phoenix could neither score nor defend with any level of, you guessed it: consistency.

Eric Bledsoe, who has scored three 40+ games in the last three weeks, cannot consistently score

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  • game in and game out. Since his first 40 point game on January 29, Bledsoe has played in seven games where he has not scored at least 40. In only two of them has he even broken 20. Tonight he finished with 16 points, though he needed 9-9 free throws to even have that respectable of a scoring line as he shot 3-15 for 20% from the field. This is Bledsoe’s second of his last three games where he has shot below 30% for the night, and the 10th time in his last 25 games he has suffered so poorly from the field.

    Devin Booker led the Suns with 20 points, although 10 came in what was already garbage time in the final 7:07 of the game. His 6-13 was an okay 46.2% from the field, although free throws too helped him where he made 8-10, as he shot oh for from beyond the arc, the fourth time in his last twelve games he has done so.

    T.J. Warren finished with a paltry 4 points on 2-6 from the field in 18 minutes, although this can hardly be seen as his fault. Before his head injury, T.J. Warren had scored in double-digits in the first eleven games of the season. It was apparent that he would have a central role in the Suns’ scoring this season, a seeming necessity since the main contribution was otherwise coming from the backcourt alone.

    Yet, since returning from the injury nearly two months ago, he has only had three streaks of either three games in a row where he has reached double-digit scoring; his third such three-game streak that broke tonight. That (hopefully) latent focal point in the offense is hurting both he and the team as the opponents never have to focus their defense on anyone outside of the guard tandem of Bledsoe and Booker.

    As mentioned before, the Grizzlies were intentionally depleted tonight with Zach Randolph missing the game as a DNP-CD and Vince Carter sitting out with a planned recovery day.

    Mike Conley didn’t quite match the career-high night of 38 from his previous matchup against the Suns, but he did finish with 23 points and 5 assists, shooting 7-10 from the field and 4-5 from beyond the arc. Conley has hit 4 or more three’s in a game six times this season. His last two have come against Phoenix. His first four came in the team’s first 14 games.

    Marc Gasol dropped in 19 points and grabbed 7 boards, and Chandler Parsons dished out 7 dimes to go with his 8 points.

    Troy Daniels, who began the fracas with Devin Booker and friends, finished with 14 points, his 2nd double-digit scoring night in the team’s last 13 games.

    Thoughts from the Valley of the Suns

    The theme tonight was inconsistency – the most consistent theme of the season. But one must look at the offense itself to wonder if the inconsistency is a product of the players or the system.

    Granted tonight the Suns faced a team that likes to slow the game down, but the Suns should have been prepared for that, and it appeared from the beginning that they were not. In fact, it is hard to say that the Grizzlies truly slowed the Suns too much at all as Phoenix finished with 87 shot attempts, right at their season average.

    More from Valley of the Suns

    For this, as the team heads into the final stretch of the season, the Suns coaching staff must be looked at just as thoroughly as the players. Questions need to be raised about why the team has four above average defenders in their rotation in Tyson Chandler, Alex Len, P.J. Tucker, and Bledsoe, and yet they consistently give up more than their opponents usually score? Why do the Phoenix Suns not use their athletic wings more in a transition game? Why do they isolate so much and not make the extra pass which causes them to take so many contested shots? (They are 12th in the league in isolation plays per game, last in assists, and 9th in shots taken with a defender between 2-4 feet, in which they have the league’s second worst  eFG%).

    While you tankers are starting to reel me in a little for the rest of this season, I cannot look at the way the Suns are playing in 2016-17 and say that I will be happy with it continuing into next year. Granted unless something miraculous happens with the roster I do not expect them to be great in 2017-18. But Suns fans and management are already well into thinking about the summer offseason and next season, and the coaching staff’s poor orchestration of the team’s offense and defense has to be seriously investigated as we look forward.

    I wish I could say that talent alone would help the turnaround.