The Memphis Grizzlies faced the lowly Phoenix Suns on Monday night. After winning five of their last seven home games, the Grizz faced a Suns team that led the season series 2-0 coming into the game. For some reason of misfortune, Memphis has averaged just 96 points against the worst defensive team in the league. Following this game would be a four game road stint for the home team, so it was important for Memphis to take advantage.
Turnovers were a problem against the Clippers in the last game (20 TOs), and that continued in the first quarter for Memphis. Passes were not on point, and the fast pace hurt Memphis while the Suns continued to capitalize on the other end. In a wonderful picture of the Grizzlies season, a great drive to the rim by Dillon Brooks led to a quick pass out to Marc Gasol and quick kick to the corner for a wide open Andrew Harrison three, which resulted in an air ball. The lead was blown to six points by the first media timeout.
As injuries continue to haunt Memphis, the young guys continued to get good reps in a game that looked to be a college game with NBA uniforms on. A game after posting his fourth career triple-double, Marc Gasol looked locked in on defense, posting two blocks in the first nine minute of this game. Unfortunately, he also committed three turnovers in the same time frame.
The lead swelled to ten points at the second media timeout, 19-9, with the Grizzlies looking slow on both ends. Memphis closed the quarter with six turnovers, but forced the Suns into six as well, the score was 26-22 in favor of the Suns. Memphis scored more in the last three minutes than they did in the first nine. Also, with four other human beings on the court, the last shot of the quarter was a pull-up, contested, three-pointer by none other than...Mario Chalmers.
The second quarter started with a Chalmers foul nine seconds into the quarter. But thanks to a few lobs and Rio staying out of the way, the Grizzlies took their first lead with 9:55 left in half, 32-29 off of an 8-0 run. Memphis played better with Marc Gasol on the bench, which seems to be a common theme of late. The young guys play faster (barely) and have a good feel for the smooth, motion offense that features equal parts lobs and perimeter jumpers.
After being down as much as 10 in the first quarter, the Grizzlies surged to an 11 point lead by the 2:36 mark left in the half. Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol spent much of the second quarter on the bench while the young guys put together a nice quarter. Wayne Selden Jr. took over on the offensive end, his jump shot was falling once again. The Suns did their best Grizzlies impersonation: their offense just ceased to exist.
Memphis closed the half on a 23-7 run, shooting 61% (!) for the half, assisting on 18 of the 25 field goals made. Also, just for the fun of it, the Grizzlies had their most productive quarter all season, scoring 42 points in the second. In just 11 minutes, Tyreke Evans posted 14 points, and Gasol had seven first half rebounds and three blocks. TJ Warren led the Suns with 15 in the first half, he was a master bully-baller.
You can guess how the third quarter started. The Suns came out strong, a 7-0 run to start in just 1:09, sparking a quick timeout by coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The lead was cut to 10 just that quick. After weathering the early storm, the Grizzlies pushed the lead back up to 20 with six minutes left. Memphis continued to played smooth offensive basketball, a welcome sight, that featured lots of Tyreke in the third quarter. Phoenix continued to struggle, simply missing open shots and not getting back on defense.
The Suns closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to cut it to 16 heading into the fourth quarter. Memphis was up by as many as 25 during the third but slipped a little in the closing minutes. The quarter went by really fast, with very little stoppage aside from the required media timeouts. Evans finished the frane with 22 points in 19 minutes, while Gasol racked his 20th double-double of the season during the third.
Two quick Harrison jumpers to start the fourth brought the lead back to 21 points within 30 seconds. The quarter went back and forth, hovering around a twenty point game for the duration. There were two major highlights- the classic Jarrell Martin contribution, enjoy below. And then the next play, a classic Tyreke Evans bailout three.
What makes the dunk more special is the call by Pete Pranica that resembles a 10-year-old boy that has never seen a dunk before. Pure joy.
The Suns cut the lead to 12 with 2:39 left, but it was too little too late. There were some really encouraging signs in this game for the Grizzlies, namely the contributions from Evans and Gasol in tandem with the young guys, who got some nice run and were really the difference in this game. Though the youngsters were playing another group of youngsters, the offense was smooth and functional, which is more than we can say about most Memphis games. The effort lacked and intensity dropped late in the fourth quarter, but that is what happens to young teams.
Final score: 120-109
Tyreke Evans finished the game with an efficient 27 points on 11-17 shooting (3-5 from three). Gasol had a 12-10 double double, adding three blocks. Memphis ended the game shooting 56% from the field and 50% from three. Seven total Grizzlies scored in double figures (and Martin with nine points).
Memphis travels to Indianapolis on Wednesday to play the Pacers.