The Memphis Grizzlies came back home after a 1-3 Western Conference road trip, looking to find their winning ways after suffering a brutal loss on Christmas Day against the Warriors. On the other side were the Phoenix Suns — a team seeking revenge the Grizzlies defeated by 25 points on their home floor.
And revenge... was unfortunately served.
Both teams started out slow, as neither team hit the double-digit mark until midway through the 1st quarter. The Grizzlies missed 10 of their 14 shots through the sluggish start. They found a bit of a rhythm, after a Suns’ 9-3 run, as the Grizzlies answered with a 9-2 run to offset the deficit. The Grizzlies were down 23-22 at the end of the 1st quarter
One note, Taylor Jenkins tweaked with his rotation. Ziaire Williams entered the game in the first substitution pattern, and Jenkins usually has John Konchar as the first wing off the bench — when Desmond Bane is starting. He likely did this to help Williams find a spark within his poor shooting performance upon his return. In addition, John Konchar hasn’t been a factor over the past few games, so this could also play a role in this retooling.
The 2nd period belonged to the Phoenix Suns, who blitzed the Grizzlies in a 42-27 quarter. The Grizzlies didn’t have any answers for their outside shooting, particularly Duane Washington Jr. — who put together a shot-creation clinic in the 2nd quarter. The Grizzlies scored 27 points, but they lacked flow for most of the quarter. Dillon Brooks also picked up a tech, arguing an offensive foul on a 3-point shooter en route to his 3rd foul. The Grizzlies trailed 65-49 at halftime.
The Memphis Grizzlies showed more signs of life in the 3rd quarter, particularly Ja Morant. He willed the Grizzlies to inch back into the game with his stellar shot-making and his relentless downhill attack. However, it felt a bit wasted, as Deandre Ayton and Duane Washington hit their stride offensively to keep the lead where it was at the start of the half. The Grizzlies were down 97-80 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Grizzlies’ energy and execution continued to be low to start the 4th quarter, and Taylor Jenkins pulled the plug with 7 minutes left to play — putting in the reserve unit to close things out.
Final score: Suns, 125 - Grizzlies, 108
- Ja Morant won’t let this team die. For the 3rd time in the past week, the Grizzlies fell behind early, and their comeback hopes were in the hands of their superstar point guard. As the deficit grew, Morant put his foot on the gas — relentless attacking the basket each possession. He seemed to be the only player committed to upping his level of urgency and energy when they got smacked in their face. It’s great to see that from their star player — their leader — and the rest of the team needs to follow his lead.
- Where’s the help? The Grizzlies haven’t given Morant a whole lot of help. The performance of role players can go through ebbs and flows, but there needs to be some consistency from the 2-4 players. Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, and Dillon Brooks all were shaky in this game. Jackson resisted foul trouble, but finished with a 2-12 shooting performance. Dillon Brooks was a mess on both sides of the ball. Desmond Bane found his groove offensively early — seeking opportunities inside the arc. However, the 3-ball wasn’t there. The team will go as far as their best players will take them, and right now it’s only Morant stepping up to the plate.
- Effort not there. One thing you could usually never question about the Grizzlies is their effort being there. It was not in this game, and that’s the most disappointing element of this game. What is it? Emotional hangover from a crushing Christmas Day defeat? Shooting struggles getting into their heads? We won’t know an answer, but it was disappointing to see the effort fall flat in this game.
The Memphis Grizzlies will hit the road on Thursday to play the Toronto Raptors, before a home back-to-back on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.