The Southwest Division champ Memphis Grizzlies will hit the hardwood for the first time since clinching the franchise’s first division title. They will be hosting the best team in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns.
Both teams are pretty set in the standings, and the only question that remains is who these two teams will be playing in the first round. Still, there is something about keeping the momentum going as they each prepare for a playoff run. The Grizzlies will be without basically its entire starting lineup, as Ja Morant was already previously announced out — JJJ, Bane, Adams, and Tyus Jones are all listed as doubtful.
So, while these two teams are the two best teams in the West, and could meet in the Western Conference Finals, this game is anything but a WCF preview.
Damon Allred from Bright Side of the Sun was kind enough to answer five questions about the Suns in anticipation of tonight’s game.
1. Phoenix has already clinched the best record in the NBA, what are your expectations for the rest of the season?
This Suns team is not one that loves to rest guys and take time off. It’s just not in their DNA. Monty Williams talks a lot about being smart about the situation, which will likely take the form of smaller minute totals, especially for guys like Booker, Paul, Ayton, and Bridges. Cam Johnson will come back soon after missing about a dozen games, and they’ll use these remaining games to get Johnson’s sea legs back under him. Williams has also talked about getting Iffe Lundberg some playing time. He’s a guard that the Suns signed recently from CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague shortly after Russia’s invasion into Ukraine started.
2. With these two teams sitting 1 and 2 in the West, this is a potential WCF preview — do you expect either of these teams to show too much to the other?
As far as base packages on both ends, the Suns are who they are, and there’s plenty of tape of their pick-and-roll games which is a big part of especially the first unit. When it comes to specific matchups, that’s where you’ll see some poker faces. Obviously Morant is out for this game, so the way Phoenix wants to guard that will be a little foggy ahead of a potential series, though I’d imagine it looks something like Bridges and Booker splitting time with the starters, to show him length and – in Booker’s case – strength.
3. Tougher matchup for the Suns defensively, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Dillon Brooks?
As much as it pains me to admit this – partially because I loved Jackson when covering his draft class – it’s Brooks. He and Booker have a history, too, and it’s always a matchup to watch, especially if these two match up in the playoffs. Brooks is also very physical, and if he draws a lot of fouls, it’ll put Phoenix’s defense in a tough spot.
4. COY: Monty Williams vs. Taylor Jenkins — both have strong cases, why does Monty deserve it over Jenkins?
Short and sweet with this one, but it’s Williams; roughly 10 games ahead in the standings being the biggest reason.
5. Which potential 8 seed in the West scares you the most?
It’s tough to look at the crop of teams hovering around the 7-10 range and not be most intimidated by the Clippers, especially as they’re getting healthier. Their comeback win against the Jazz showed the world why. If Kawhi Leonard and Norm Powell rejoin the team as well, that’s a squad that could easily give the Suns a run for their money even in round one.