WHERE: Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona
WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/92.2 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Brandan Wright (Questionable, ankle), JaMychal Green (Questionable, knee)
PHOENIX- Dragan Bender (Questionable, ankle)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
PHOENIX- Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler
Did you have the Memphis Grizzlies splitting their most recent back to back?
Most folks did. 1-1 over any two games in two nights stretch is a successful run more often than not. And most folks had Memphis dropping their game in Utah on night two while winning the first game against the lesser opponent, the Trail Blazers.
Well, most folks had it flipped. The Grizzlies lost in Portland and then beat the Jazz, continuing their stretch of confusing play. Memphis just seems to have real issues getting up for the games they are supposed to win while having better energy and focus in games that “should be” losses.
Which should explain the shiver that just went down your spine, if you are a Grizzlies fan and are reading this. The opponent tonight, the Phoenix Suns, have the second worst record in the NBA. They have lost 14 of 22 games at home, and they appear to perhaps be destined for a high draft pick.
That doesn’t mean they should be looked over, however. They have talented and proud players who are surely looking at this Memphis team and telling themselves if they play their game, they can hang with and perhaps even upset the Grizzlies.
How do the bears of Beale Street make sure that doesn’t happen?
Respect the Backcourt
The Grizzlies have had problems recently with talented backcourt tandems. John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard in Portland...those are just two examples of four players who play well with their respective back court mate and have given Memphis fits in recent games.
While their team’s record may not show it, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns are comparable both in talent and in impact. The two combine to score over 42 points per game on average, launching almost ten threes per contest. Bledsoe in particular has been Phoenix’s best player this season, and he has been a thorn in the side of the Grizzlies going back to his days on the Los Angeles Clippers.
Tony Allen and his Memphis teammates have a tendency to overlook guys. If they sleep on Bledsoe and Booker, they will pay the price.
Defend Without Fouling
David Fizdale said it himself recently- with the style of play the Grizzlies execute on a nightly basis, fouls are bound to happen. A physical defensive team is bound to reach and slap and be overaggressive at times.
But the only team in the NBA that fouls more than the Memphis Grizzlies (23.6 per game) is the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix commits over 25 fouls per game, with eight players averaging at least 2.4 fouls on average in any given contest. The Suns are hackers just like the Grizzlies.
So while this may be a game where the number of fouls Memphis commits will not be as hurtful, if they can find a way to keep their man in front of them and defend without fouling it will be pretty harmful to the Suns. The Grizzlies offense will benefit from the shot attempts from the charity stripe, but if Phoenix goes to the line just as often there will be no benefit to Memphis.
Be prepared for another slow start. The Suns starting lineup is actually a solid combination of veteran presence and youthful energy. Chandler Parsons will likely start the contest, and as he continues to work through the process of getting himself right it may impact the Grizzlies ability to get going early.
But then the bench will come in. And while Alex Len has played well for stretches for Phoenix this season, there are other key veteran players like Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker, and Brandon Knight who have hurt the Suns. Meanwhile, some of the Grizzlies best performers of late are in reserve roles- Zach Randolph is playing his best basketball of the season, Vince Carter continues his best season in a Grizzlies uniform, James Ennis, Troy Daniels, perhaps a returning Brandan Wright...
The Grizzlies bench is that much better than that of the Suns. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley should play well, but it will be the Memphis reserves that will lead the Grizzlies to a victory in the desert.