Tonight our boys in purple in orange continue their second half push towards the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at U.S. Airways Arena. Just as the Suns are not currently playing like the first half Suns, the Grizzlies are not the Grizzlies we saw on January 28. In that match up, Phoenix held Memphis to 16 points in the first and second quarters and narrowly escaped with a 86-84 win. Jared Dudley finished with a season-high 20 points, Steve Nash went for 21 and 6 while Marcin Gortat finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns.
The Grizzlies are still without Zach Randolph, but are managing just fine, winning 5 straight games over the Sixers, Mavericks, Warriors, Raptors and Pistons, and scoring over 100 points in the last 3. Overall, the Grizzlies have jumped out of the lottery and into 4th in the Western Conference and 2nd place in the Southwest Division.
Keys to a W Vs. The Grizzlies
- Keep Grizz under 100: D it up. The Suns can allow a big two, but a big 3 going off usually equates to a loss as we saw in extreme measures versus the Thunder. Gasol needs to be held in check inside, while Grant Hill will have his hands full with Suns-Killer Rudy Gay. Gay has averaged 20 and 5 versus the Suns in 19 games, while shooting 46% from beyond the arc and 47% overall. Mike Conley has had double figure scoring in 3 of the last 5 but perhaps more importantly, he has averaged 9.5 assists in those victories.
- Clean the Glass: Channing Frye had an ugly game against the Mavericks but in the Suns recent 6-2 run, Frye has chipped in an average of 7 boards a game. If Frye is going to continue his 37% shooting at home, he at least needs to bring some defense an grab some boards. Marcin Gortat suffered mightily against Gasol in the last meeting, going 6 for 17, but was his usual aggressive self on the boards, notching 12 rebounds.
- Pine Dwellers: As always, the Suns bench usually decides whether the Suns exit a game smelling like roses or cat litter. Shannon Brown has scored in double figures in 3 of the Suns last 5 games, while shooting above his season average of 40% in 4 of the last 5. Shannon has finally realized that slashing to the hoop results in much happier and high percentage things than gunning from the expensive seats. Robin Lopez has looked better than his first half self of late in limited minutes. With Gortat attempting to keep Marc Gasol honest, Lopez needs to be ready should the Polish Hammer find himself in foul difficulty. And perhaps he gets an extra minute or two as the trade deadline approaches. Perhaps. Sebastian Telfair was the subject of a complimentary piece by Mr. Paul Coro, although you couldn't tell he has improved by looking at the box scores. I will settle for solid defense, increased ball movement, and a decent assist to turnover ratio.
- Keep on Being You, Baby: The Phoenix Suns starters lead the league with a combined +141. Suppose there is always room for improvement, but they can just keep on keepin' on as far as I'm concerned.
- Expect more Hakim Warrick as Markieff Morris has hit the proverbial "rookie wall." The youngster has hit only 8 of his last 47 attempts from the field and is generally looking like a wide eyed rookie instead of the confident tough guy we saw at the outset of the season. Perhaps some time sitting next to Bill Cartwright will help. Said Warrick, "I just tried to come in and be a game changer...You always have to be ready no matter what when your number is called."
- Did you not know it is Polish Heritage Night? Shame, shame, shame if you did not. Marcin Gortat is expecting his closest 500 friends in attendance tonight to celebrate. If it's one thing Gortat is, it is PROUD of himself and heritage. If you rec this preview I will consider giving away one of the official Gortat life-sized height posters that are being given away tonight at U.S. Airways.
- Steve Nash is being himself, with 24 assists in the past two games against 2 turnovers.
GET JACKED UP, PEOPLE! This is a huge game for the Suns. I won't say a must-win, because I rarely say that unless it is actually true. However knocking off a WC foe that is playing their best basketball of the season at home could be a monstrous confidence and momentum builder for the Suns. It's time to ignore the family tonight and get on the game thread. Remember, Robert Sarver has asked for your support.
Check for the live game thread at 6.30
Game Day Links:
Grizzlies-Suns Game Preview: Straight Outta Vancouver/Griffin Gotta
Phoenix Suns' Channing Frye's focus: Be 'defensive-minded'-Coro/AZ Central
Grizzlies vs Suns coverage
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