The Phoenix Suns game into this game looking to exorcize their 4th quarter demons. The Memphis Grizzlies gave them their chance as Phoenix led Memphis 68-67 going into the 4th quarter at FedExForum this afternoon. And for the fourth consecutive game, the Phoenix Suns could not close out, losing a heartbreaker in Memphis, 95-93.
Phoenix put themselves behind the 8 ball almost immediately in the 4th by committing 5 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the quarter. You can't give the best free throw shooting team in the league 8 minutes of penalty time down the stretch and expect to win the game. And yet... Phoenix was in a position to win this until the very end.
Alex Len (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) continued his strong work in place of Tyson Chandler with a clutch putback of a missed Jon Leuer free throw to tie the game 93-93. At the other end, he blocked Mike Conley's layup attempt to give Phoenix the ball with 2.1 seconds left. Worst case, Phoenix would miss the final attempt and force overtime, right?
WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Brandon Knight dribble the inbounds pass off his foot. Memphis gets the ball back with .8 seconds left on the clock. Memphis inbounds the alley-oop to Jeff Green for the win. Phoenix got the ball back with 0.5 on the clock, but Eric Bledsoe airballed the final attempt.
While Phoenix didn't have a chance to put this away early, they missed some good opportunities to jump all over the Grizzlies early. Stout defensive play by the Suns in the first quarter was negated by terrible shooting on the offensive end. The Suns missed 10 of their 11 3-point attempts and shot 28% over all. Phoenix gave Memphis a couple of different defensive looks, putting Jon Leuer on Marc Gasol and Alex Len on Zach Randolph.
Leuer was probably not in "revenge game" mode, but he demonstrated he has no intention of returning to the bench with aggressive play all over the court, tallying a line of 10 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. Despite poor shooting he was everywhere.
For Memphis, Marc Gasol overcame a slow start to finish with 22 points and 7 rebounds, while Courtney Lee went off for 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to keep Memphis ahead for the better part of the quarter.
It's hard to point fingers in this loss. The easy culprit is poor 3-point shooting as Phoenix only hit 29% of their 31 attempts. The more difficult culpability lies with the Suns' poor execution and mental errors in crunch time. That's a problem they can't solve with some drills in practice.
Markieff Morris did not play for Phoenix tonight. Phoenix won't have long to dwell on this one as they play the Bull tomorrow in Chicago to close out their road trip.
- Nice start for the Suns as Brandon Knight gets the first 5 points.
- Crisp passing and offensive execution get Phoenix a 10-2 lead to start the game.
- Not sure what the change is here but Phoenix looks tentative. Open looks getting passed up.
- Leuer on Gasol. Didn't see that coming. Working all right so far defensively.
- Those open looks are not going down now. Memphis is chipping away.
- And Memphis has the lead, 15-12. They got there by controlling the pace and some cold ass shooting by Phoenix.
- Brandon Knight's decision making needs work. I have no doubt dude is smart and hard-working, but he passes up some shots and takes others that just boggle my mind.
- DM; TJ. Warren scores 4 in a row to tie the game 16-16 with 48 seconds left in the first quarter. Memphis comes back and scores four of their own to take 20-16 lead into the 2nd quarter.
- What's cooler than cool? The Suns' 3-point shooting. Hey, ya. (1-11 in first quarter.)
- TJ Warren bad pass. Mario Chalmers good steal. 23-16, Grizz.
- Vince Carter vs. Devin Booker: That's a 19-year age difference right there. Run around the old man, young buck!
- Suns' activity on the defensive end -- and Memphis' glacial pace -- is keeping this game close. PHX hanging within 5 points.
- Eric Bledsoe coming alive with 4 in a row.
- Len on Gasol now instead of Leuer. Seems to be working too. Len doing a good job of keeping his feet on the ground on D.
- Oh, Devin Booker... you were born to inherit the Sweet D mantle from Walter Davis. His 3-ball brings the Suns within 2.
- Alex Len's 2 glaring defensive lapses have come when Gasol and Zach Randolph have faced him up. After Gasol buries a jumper over him, Alex gets a bucket of his own. 29-27, Memphis.
- We are 6 minutes into the second quarter and haven't seen Markieff Morris yet. Maybe after this time out?
- Nope. Ronnie Price over Markieff. Maybe he's sitting this one out?
- Man, I am so happy I have several years of Devin Booker viewing ahead of me.
- Gasol getting going. He's scored the Grizz' last 5 points. Mike Conley hits a 3 pointer, Marc Gasol makes a long 2 and the Griz are up 10 points.
- Our Leuerd and Savior heard out prayers... Hits from deep to cut it to 39-32. Oh my... and then he blows by Z-Bo for a reverse! Suns within 5.
- Eric Bledsoe doing the Grizz dirty with a 2-ball and a behind the back pull-up jumper.
- Jon Leuer revenge game is on. Just put Randolph in the spin cycle and draws the foul. Hits both foul shots. Tie game. 41-41.
- Gasol answers, Bledsoe airballs at the buzzer. Suns end the half down to Memphis, 43-41.
- Jon Leuer is going AT Randolph at every opportunity. He gets blocked by Gasol but Alex Len slams home the rejection to tie the game.
- The Len-Tucker 2 man game is about as ugly as you probably imagined it to be. Ends in a turnover and a foul on Mike Conley.
- Eric Bledsoe's routine greatness is something I cherish as a fan.
- Let's keep an eye on this: Alex Len just picked up his 3rd foul with 9 minutes left in the 3rd.
- Bled 3. Knight 3. Suns up by 5.
- More Bled dirtiness: drew a 3 foul shot call on Chalmers by heaving the ball when Chalmers touched his arm. They should just call that "The Kobe."
- Matt Barnes grabs Alex Len. Len raises is arms into Barnes' chin. Refs review. Double techs assessed. Len goes to the line.
- Mario Chalmers hits a 3. Grizzlies are knocking again and back within 1 point with 3:13 left in the 3rd quarter.
- Phoenix keeps Memphis at bay to end the quarter up 68-67.
- Suns do themselves no favors and commit 5 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the 4th quarter. That's 8 minutes in the penalty for the best free throw shooting team in the league.
- Courtney Lee is going bananas with 10 fourth quarter points so far.