It was fitting that the Grizzlies lost to the Suns 82-80, considering that they gave up 19 offensive rebounds. It was also fitting that Goran Dragic made the game-winning bucket w/ 0.5 left, considering he missed a similar layup attempt on national TV last week.
The Grizzlies did what they needed to do to START the game. They went inside to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, riding them to a comfortable edge. It was a double-digit lead before Michael Beasley even pulled off his first patented yawn.
But, former All-Star and current Suns reserve Jermaine O'Neal was watching...and plotting his revenge.
I thought J.O.'s contributions in the 2nd quarter were huge. He made his presence felt immediately, contesting shots (to the tune of 4 blocks) and muscling Speights & Arthur inside. He gave his teammates the confidence they needed to get back into the game. The scoreboard may not have reflected O'Neal's contributions at the time, but they paid dividends later. Much in the same way that Quincy Pondexter saved the Grizz with his 2nd quarter energy 8 days ago vs Phoenix, Jermaine saved the Suns Wednesday night.
Phoenix stayed in the game thanks to their backup center, and put themselves in position to make a run before halftime. When it was a 3-point game at the break. Brevin Knight was pointing to Grizz turnovers & Suns offensive rebounding. It was Jermaine O'neal who got that party started.
At the other pivot spot, Marc Gasol was shooting perfectly at one point in the 1st half. Problem? It was only on three shots. Marc's halftime stats of six points, and one rebound were not what I expected from a Suns team without a set big man rotation.
The Griz turnovers continued in the 3rd as Dragic went downcourt for an uncontested layup. No one else even crossed halfcourt. The teams went back and forth all quarter. It was still a three-point game when Jermaine checked in late in the quarter. But this time, Hollins made the adjustment. He kept Marc in the game to guard JO. In fact, Marc didn't sit until 5:19 left in the game with the score tied 76-76 (same point spread as the end of the 3rd).
The game see-sawed for the entire 4th quarter. The Grizzlies shot themselves in the foot by not going enough to Zach inside on Markieff Morris. The Suns appeared determined to return the favor by letting Shannon Brown go into his ball-holding, Kobe act.
Gasol returned after a short rest determined to control the paint. He finished with a career-high 6 blocks. However, he only contributed 2 rebounds. That should be a big concern in Memphis.
Rudy Gay had himself a quiet 21 pts & 11 rebs, in which he was baffled by no-calls on almost every shot attempt down the stretch. Maybe the refs were thrown off by how easy he made it look around the basket. His pull-up jumper with the score tied at 80 ended with him laying on the floor. So the Grizzlies now leave the Valley of the Sun, headed for the Rocky Mountains.
Oh, and they're bringing their first losing streak of the season with them. Forget gut check...it's 'grind check' time.
For more on the Suns: Bright Side Of The Sun