WHEN: 9:00 PM CST
WHERE: Phoenix Suns Arena
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee, Out)
PHOENIX: Cam Johnson (health and safety protocols, Out)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
PHOENIX: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Frank Kaminsky, DeAndre Ayton
The word “finish” needs to be plastered over the Memphis Grizzlies locker room door if it isn’t already.
In their last 3 contests, the Memphis Grizzlies have not played “bad basketball” by any means, but they have done just enough not to close out games. This includes yesterday’s brunch bummer against a depleted Oklahoma City Thunder squad in which they led most of the game. The phrase “Any Given Sunday” is absolutely true, but the Memphis Grizzlies won’t have too much time to reflect as they head into Phoenix to face one of the best teams in the association.
This will be the final matchup between the two teams, as Memphis will look to take the season series from a Suns team that currently sits at 2nd place in the Western Conference. While the Grizzlies were victorious on MLK Day, the Suns blew them off the floor in the 2nd matchup with a method that could potentially spell trouble for the Grizzlies given current defensive trends. It will take a total team effort, much like the one in their January bout, in order to steal a road victory against one of the best defensive teams in the league.
The trio of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton provide a formidable matchup for the young Grizzlies, but there’s already precedent for the Grizzlies - a team that has done well on the road thus far - to go in to Phoenix and get a late night win in the Valley.
Put Out the Fire
The Phoenix Suns have been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA this season. On February 20th, they emphatically proved that to Memphis as they sank a franchise record 24 threes against the Grizzlies on the way to a 31 point blowout win.
This could be bad news for a Memphis Grizzlies team that has struggled to defend on the perimeter as of late. Yesterday, they gave up a number of open perimeter looks to Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski, and in return he scored a career-high strengthened by five threes. Devin Booker is not Pokusevski. Dillon Brooks has played great defense on Bradley Beal and Jamal Murray, since the return from the All-Star break but if defensive miscommunications from yesterday carry over into tonight, it the Grizzlies could be in for a long night. It will be imperative for the Grizzlies to avoid the zone coverages that the Suns picked apart in prior matchups and instead find ways to make the Suns uncomfortable on the perimeter.
Sharing is Caring
The point may seem elementary but it has told a larger story of the Grizzlies season. The Grizzlies are 11-1 when they have 30+ assists in a game. Two more wins are added when you stretch the marker out to 28+ assists. The Memphis Grizzlies are at their best when they increase the pace of play and find the open man whether it be in transition or with ball movement in half court possessions. In their last matchup with the Suns, the Grizzlies were held to 19 assists which even without the previously mentioned trend is not conducive to winning basketball games in the NBA.
Although the Grizzlies aren’t struggling to score per se - shooting 49.3% as a team since the All-Star break - they’re going to have to take advantage of any open looks they can get against the Suns 5th ranked defense. They will need to take advantage of mismatch when they present themselves and finish at the rim/make their patented floaters.
The Memphis Grizzlies are getting into the thick of their difficult second half schedule as they play the second game of their first of eleven back to backs. The Suns present tough competition in this position but as the Grizzlies have proved time after time - they can play with anyone. In order for the Grizzlies to steal one in the valley, they will have to limit starters outside of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. They’ll also have to win the bench minutes that may see new faces such as Grayson Allen or even Killian Tillie introduced due to the circumstances. Ja Morant vs. CP3 is the marquee matchup but there will be a variety of intriguing matchups presented tonight. There are quite a few reasons to pick against the Grizzlies but after seeing Doug McDermott go off for 22 off the bench for the Pacers playing a major factor in their win over the Suns on Friday I won’t put anything past this pesky Grizzlies team.
FINAL SCORE: Grizzlies 111 - Suns 106