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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Phoenix Suns Game Preview

The Grizzlies arrive in Phoenix with the hope of putting their recent road woes behind them.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (19-11, 6-9 away) @ Phoenix Suns (19-13, 14-4 home)

WHEN: 9:00 PM CT

WHERE: Footprint Center — Phoenix, Arizona

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Desmond Bane (Questionable, toe), Danny Green (Out, knee), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, G League Two-Way Transfer), Kennedy Chandler (Out, G-League Assignment), Jake LaRavia (Out, G-league Assignment), Vince Williams Jr. (Out, G-League Two-Way Transfer)

PHOENIX: Devin Booker (Out, Groin) Jae Crowder (Out, personal reasons), Cameron Johnson (Out, Knee), Cameron Payne (Out, Foot), Jock Landale (Questionable, Concussion Protocol), Josh Okogie (Questionable, Hip)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

PHOENIX: Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Torrey Craig, Damion Lee

For the second straight game, the Memphis Grizzlies will face a fellow top four team in the West in the Phoenix Suns. The Grizzlies currently are tied atop the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets while the Suns currently sit one game behind in the fourth spot. The Western Conference continues to be a tight race as the calendar approaches 2023, with head-to-head matchups between the best teams in the west have a lot of impact on playoff seeding.

Speaking of impact, the Grizzlies hope that either tonight or on Christmas day, one of their most impactful players will be back in Desmond Bane. It has been nearly six weeks since Bane played for the Grizzlies, and at the level he was playing, he will be welcomed back with open arms to pair with Ja Morant as one of the best offensive tandems in the league. If Memphis can get Bane back and win at least one of their next two road games, it will still be a successful road trip despite a 1-3 record.

The Suns have been a bit of an enigma over the past month of play. After winning seven of eight games, they then lost five of six, follow that stretch up with three straight wins, and then lost their last game against the Wizards. Injuries have played a part in their inconsistencies, especially with Devin Booker being out for three straight games now after scoring 58 points against the Pelicans. Booker not playing is obviously a big boost for Memphis; however, the Grizzlies still have plenty to contend with in the form of Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Mikail Bridges, and others.

Of course, the Grizzlies have to overcome their own struggles along with playing a very talented team. For Memphis, the key is getting off to a good start and defending the three.

A Strong Start

One of the biggest focal points for Memphis has to be a strong start against the Suns. In their last two losses, Memphis has allowed the Thunder and Nuggets to get big leads that Memphis simply could not overcome. And yet, slow starts on the road are nothing new for Memphis so far this season. The Grizzlies rank 25th in points and 29th in 3P% in the first quarter of road games among NBA teams. That makes a key difference in the Grizzlies ability to succeed, as they are a team that highly benefits from getting early leads in games. Finding the best shot possible, finding success in the paint, and moving the basketball will be key to getting off to a better start.

Defending the Three

When the Grizzlies are on the road, they allow opponents to make 15 threes per game and shoot 40.1% from three. That is a start contrast from how they defend threes at home, and creates a hard obstacle to overcome for a Grizzlies offense that is league average at shooting threes themselves on the road. Getting Bane back could provide a bit of help both in making and defending threes; however, Memphis must focus on defending the perimeter better.

This is critical in tonight's game as, even without Devin Booker in four of the past five games, the Suns are top ten in the NBA in three-pointers per game and 3P% in the month of December. Paul is shooting over 40% from three in December, while the Suns bench is one of the best three-point shooting reserve units in the NBA. In other words, the main key for Memphis is that they will have to defend the perimeter the entire game.

If Bane is able to play, the Grizzlies will certainly get a needed boost against one of more formidable foes in the West. Furthermore, Memphis’s early season inconsistencies on the road are an area of clear opportunity to improve. Despite their youth, the Grizzlies “road warrior” mentality in the past has led to big wins are from the Bluff City. They will need that mentality again tonight, along with a strong start and good defense to get a big win. With plenty of rest and motivation to bounce back after the past two games, look for the Grizzlies to get the job done in the desert tonight.

Final Score: Memphis 117 Phoenix 110

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