The gauntlet continues tonight in the US Airways Center as the Phoenix Suns (28-21) host a team they just cannot figure out in the Memphis Grizzlies (35-12).
It's been a long time since Goran Dragic pulled the spin move on Marc Gasol for the game winning layup with almost no time left to defeat the Grizzlies at home 82-80. That was December 12, 2012. A long time ago. Since then, the Suns have not even come close to beating the Grizzlies at home (they won in Memphis in January of that awful year, but lost at home).
Now, the Suns need to find a way to beat a Grizzlies team that just pounds the Suns into submission all game and finishes them off with timely scoring when it counts.
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. Memphis Grizzlies
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
- When: 7:00 PM
- TV: FoxSports Arizona
- Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
Big thanks to our 'Find the Best' partners for the snazzy graphic! Feel free to click all over that interactive graphic for an in-depth comparison of the teams for tonight's game.
The Grizzlies are good. We know that. They know that. They've been playoff-caliber for several years and don't plan on going away any time soon. The Grizzlies formula is to defend you tight, rebound your misses and score enough points on offense to win at the end. And now, they've filled their only hole - at small forward - with Jeff Green, an acquisition for next to nothing from the Celtics last month.
When the Grizzlies beat the Suns last month in Memphis, they shut down two of the three Trips by playing their own brand of three guards. Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, all plus defenders, ran all over the court to control the Suns trio while Randolph and Gasol controlled the paint.
The Grizzlies had a comfortable lead all game until a furious rally by the Suns to force overtime, capped by P.J. Tucker's improbably isolation drive with seconds left. Then, the Suns had a chance to win with a 2-point lead at the end of the first overtime, but Isaiah Thomas had a turnover (Thomas had been excellent until then with 20 huge points). Finally, the second overtime was a +12 cake walk as the Suns ran out of steam.
Starting with the win over the Suns, the Grizzlies have won 10 of 11 games, holding their opponent to less than 100 points in each of their last 9 wins.
Check out more on the Grizzlies at our brother site Grizzly Bear Blues
The home team really needs a big win, against a team they don't often beat, if they are going to take that next step into the realm of legitimate playoff teams.
That doesn't mean the Suns can't lose this game and make the playoffs. In fact, losing tonight has nearly no bearing on the Suns' playoff hopes as long as they win the rest of the games they are supposed to win. The Grizz are a tough out, as they proved a couple weeks ago.
But to win this game, the Suns are going to have to play good defense. Unfortunately, the defense has been quite suspect all season, and even worse during the 16-7 run they are currently on. The defense ranks 22nd in the league over that span (23rd over the last 10 games), being buoyed by one of the top 5 offenses in the league.
Against the Grizzlies last time, Alex Len had 14 points and 13 rebounds to effectively negate Gasol (until the second OT after Len fouled out). Markieff Morris and brother Marcus combined for 28 points and 15 rebounds to offset Randolph. But the starting guards of Bledsoe and Dragic only produced 20 total points between them - matched by Isaiah Thomas' 20 off the bench.
Out on a limb
I'm going to guess that the Suns best player tonight is Alex Len. The Grizzlies will focus their defense on the point guards, leaving Len to battle one on one with Gasol. Last time, Len produced 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Gasol only scored 5 points before the second overtime after Len had fouled out.
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Suns players doing well tonight, or bet on their big man opponents in Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol.
Tough to predict a win over a team that the Suns have lost to 6 straight times. Coach Jeff Hornacek has never beaten the Grizzlies since taking over as coach, something Alvin Gentry managed to do twice in his final half-season of coaching.
Grizz by 10.