Phoenix Suns lose to Memphis 104-99 after grisly second half

Conley was the difference. - Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tale of two halves as Phoenix's offense was dazzling for the first 27 minutes and discombobulated from there on out. In the end, the Grizzlies' defense, and the Suns' infatuation with missing threes, was the difference.

Recap:

The Suns were like a greyhound chasing a rabbit when the gates opened to start the game. Channing Frye, who may be single handedly responsible for global warming, got things going with a three pointer and had eight points in the first five minutes. Memphis tried to keep pace, but Phoenix gained some separation with an 8-0 run to push the lead to 25-15. Leandro Barbosa entered the game during this run, and in usual Blur fashion, showed why he earned his nickname and that he can still get to the basket practically at will. He scored back-to-back buckets for the Suns on picturesque teardrop layups.

Then a horrendous, but apropos, example of exploitation of a Suns glaring weakness reared it's execrable head. First Zach Randolph missed a shot at the rim, then Ed Davis missed one at the rim, then Davis missed another putback, then Randolph finally got it through the hole.  Three offensive rebounds on one possession leading to a score... In all, Memphis grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the quarter. This helped Memphis cut into Phoenix's lead and slow the pace.

The quarter ended with a nice exchange (won by Memphis) in which Ed Davis posterized Alex Len with a ferocious dunk right over the rookie, but the tyro Len didn't drop his head and scored on a putback on the Suns very next offensive possession.

First Quarter Score: Suns 29, Grizzlies 25

Markieff Morris started off the second with a couple of jumpers, trying to get in the flow of the game right away leading the bench unit, but Mike Conley countered with a three pointer and followed that up with a driving layup (giving him 10 points in the early going) to tie the game at 36. As the quarter wore on the Grizzlies couldn't stop the Suns and the Suns couldn't stop Zach Randolph.  The Grizzlies' bear of a power forward scored four consecutive baskets for Memphis as they started feeding him in the post, but while this was unfurling the Suns scored on six of seven possessions to pull back into the lead.

The flow of the game was favoring the Suns as the Grizzlies straggled behind them.  Frye capped the first half scoring with a nice pump fake sidestep shot around his helpless defender which was somewhat reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki (minus the nauseating factor).  The Suns 55 points (on 52.4% shooting) in the first half adumbrated auspiciously after stumbling to just 91 total in each of the first two games against the Grizzlies. Dragic led the way for Phoenix with 13 points and four assists. Conley had 14 points and three assists as a counterbalance.

Halftime Score: Suns 55, Grizzlies 48

Gerald Green resumed the barrage with back-to-back threes before missing on a heat check from 30 feet. Memphis was knocking shots down, too, but the Suns stretched their lead to nine on two more three pointers (one each by P.J. Tucker and Dragic).  Four threes to start the quarter pushed the Suns to 9-14 from deep for the game.  12-10 scoring in the first 3:28 of the quarter. A cataract of points that led to a Memphis timeout.

The Suns couldn't capitalize on their momentum as they managed just seven points on 3-15 shooting over the remaining 8:32 in the quarter.  Memphis ended up coming all the way back to tie the game with a 10-3 run over the last 6:07 of the period.  Can that even be called a run?  Maybe a stroll... or a crawl...  Semantics aside it was a brand new game.

Third Quarter Score: Suns 74, Grizzlies 74

Phoenix decided they would try their hand at scoring again to start the fourth with Ish Smith, Miles Plumlee and Markieff leading a charge to put the Suns back ahead 86-82. After another Memphis timeout to stem the tide, they pounded the ball back inside to James Johnson and Kosta Koufous to tie the game again. Then, in a bit of turnabout is fair play, the Suns were able to corral three offensive rebounds in the lane to get Marcus Morris to the line, where he sank two free throws.

The game was turning into a dog fight. The effort in the arena was palpable, with both teams desperately clawing and scraping for a victory. There was some exceptional defense on display and the scoreboard stalled again.  But after the score was stuck on 88-86 for what seemed like an eternity (it was actually only 2:13) Conley made two big shots (a long jumper and a three) and Ed Davis capped a 7-0 run to put Memphis ahead 93-88. Markieff scored two more buckets for Phoenix, but the Suns couldn't catch up because they couldn't make any stops... The Grizzlies, who were 6-15 from the free throw line entering the final minutes, sealed the hard fought victory by going 8-8 from the line down the stretch.

Final Score: Grizzlies 104, Suns 99

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Player of the Game:

Mike Conley was the best player on the court tonight. In a rare occurrence, Goran Dragic was easily outplayed by a rival point guard he may be fighting with for a final spot on the All-Star roster. Conley had a game high 31 points to go with seven assists and was instrumental in the pivotal moments in the fourth quarter when Memphis finally seized control of the game.  While Dragic finished with 21 (on uber efficient shooting) he only had three points in the second half until there were 28 seconds left in the game and Memphis just needed to make free throws to close out the game.

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Comments of the Game:

He'll have to miss eventually....Right?!?!

- Memphis announcer on Channing Frye

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Green is just dripping with confidence right now.

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You get a three.

He gets a three.

Everyone gets a three.

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Plum Jam.  Now I'm hungry.

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Um, Horny, how's it going, uh yeah time to put Dragic back in

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Big Dragic fan but Conley is getting past him like he has an EZ Pass tag.

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We brought this on ourselves.

This game shouldn't have been this close.

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The Good:

The first half. The flow of the game favored the Suns and their offense looked dynamic and efficient.  The Suns scored 55 points against a team that had suffocated them in two previous meetings while shooting 52.4% from the field (22-42) and 55.6% from deep (5-9).

The Suns may have lost the game, but it wasn't for lack of effort. The intensity in the second half of the game was great theater. One effort stat is that Phoenix gave up 11 offensive rebounds in the first quarter... and then only three more for the rest of the game.

The Suns only committed six turnovers in the game. More evidence that they didn't play poorly, necessarily, they just couldn't score after Memphis ramped up their strangling defense.

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The Bad:

The second half. The flow of the game favored the Grizzlies and the Suns' offense looked stagnant and lost. The Suns offense was stanched and they shot 32% from the field (16-50) and 28.6% from deep (6-21). The three point shooting was especially abhorrent after a quick start in the third pushed them to 9-14 on the game. From that point forward they went 2-16 (1-15 until Dragic hit a meaningless three with less than two seconds left). Phoenix went through a stretch of 18:38 spanning the third and fourth quarters were they scored an exiguous 21 points...

Speaking of three point shots, the Suns just kept chucking them.  After going 7-29 in the first game against Memphis and 8-30 in the second game it was 11-30 tonight. Probably should have reigned the guys back in during that stretch where the Suns went 1-15 from deep and lost the game... The Suns last real chance to win the game - Green misses a three with :37 seconds to go and the team down by just four. Taking 30 three point shots against Memphis has proven to be a strategical blunder.

The Suns just simply fail on the interior game against this team. Horrible mismatch. Plumlee and the Morrii combined for 34 points (on 13-34 shooting) and 20 rebounds. Randolph, Davis and Koufous went for 38 (on 18-37 shooting) and 35. That makes three straight were they have been pummeled.  I don't know how many games it would take for Phoenix to finally win this exchange for a game, but I'm glad that I don't have to find out...

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The Ugly:

I'm not complaining. Sure, it sucks that Phoenix lost, but that was a damn entertaining game in my opinion.

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Final Thoughts:

The Suns took one on the chin tonight. A game they could have easily won managed to slip away in the closing minutes. The Suns are just confounded by teams of the Grizzlies ilk.  Hopefully other teams that don't habitually play that style won't be able to duplicate the blueprint that seems so successful against Phoenix.

Five games in seven nights is always a significant obstacle. Bledsoe being sidelined made it even more perilous. It wan't a stretch to surmise the Suns would have their hands full against teams like Chicago and Memphis. There is no reason for the Suns to hang their heads. Tomorrow provides a new opportunity with a game against a Pistons squad that won tonight, but had lost eight of nine prior to that.

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