When: 7:30PM AZ Time (late start)
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM ArizonaSports
The Phoenix Suns try to break their franchise-long 8-game home losing streak (and franchise tying 13-game losing streak overall) against a team that has always had it's way with the Suns.
The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off a 2-game drubbing of the Lox Angeles Lakers and a big trade deadline where they reshaped their roster in the wake of All-NBA center Marc Gasol's season-ending injury.
If you thought the Memphis Grizzlies were going to disappear from the NBA landscape when Marc Gasol, their all-world center, suffered a season-ending foot injury, you are going to have to think again.
Memphis Head Coach Dave Joerger - one of the 'Horny Handful'* - made his reputation by helping the Grizzlies form one of the best defenses and plodding offenses in the league, built around big men Gasol and Zach Randolph. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, their defense was 7th and 3rd overall, respectively, while the offense was just mid-pack and their pace was among the slowest in the entire league.
But like Popovich in San Antonio, Joerger has shown an ability to adapt his style to the available personnel. With Randolph slowing down and Gasol injured, the Grizzlies have morphed into a more offensively threatening team while the defense slips.
This year, both the defense has lagged while recently the offense has picked up steam. After scoring 110+ points only 12 times all last year, they've eclipsed that mark four times since February 1 alone, plus two more games of 109 points. In the last three days, the Grizzlies have scored 128 and 112 points in home-and-homes against the Lakers.
In the wake of Marc Gasol's injury, the Grizzlies made a few moves to improve the offense even further. They swapped Jeff Green for Lance Stephenson and traded Courtney Lee for P.J. Hairston (and Chris Anderson and 4 second-round picks). Their defense might slip, but scoring and playmaking has improved. Additionally, offseason acquisition Brandan Wright has slipped into the starting center role in place of Gasol.
If the Suns don't have it bad enough just by trotting out a starting lineup of Ronnie Price, Devin Booker (rookie), P.J. Tucker, Kris Humphries and Tyson Chandler, the Grizzlies feature a seemingly endless array of Suns killers.
Point guard and Suns killer Mike Conley still drives the Grizzlies ship and Zach Randolph clears the decks. The bench features former Suns-turned-haters Matt Barnes and CTLVCOF himself, Vince Carter. And now, former Suns center Brandan Wright will probably have a great game against Chandler and Len.
While the Suns have won three buzzer-beaters themselves this year, we can't forget (thanks to the splash pic on the article!) that the Grizzlies have a buzzer beater of their own against the Suns this season.
Remember when Jeff Green caught the inbounds pass for a game-winning slam dunk after a Brandon Knight turnover with less than a second left? Those were the good ol' days when the Suns were competitive but still found ways to lose.
Take a look at this great breakdown by Seth Pollack after that game. If you recall, the Suns battled back in the closing minutes from a 6-point deficit to tie the game. Alex Len blocked Mike Conley with 2.1 seconds left to give the Suns a chance to win, but Knight's turnover and Green's oop ended the game in a way only the Suns can end a game.
Note that one game-ending play included so many guys no longer playing for either team - Cory Jefferson, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Marc Gasol, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green are all gone or traded.
Only Len and Tucker (and maybe Leuer) will play for the Suns, and Conley and Randolph for the Grizz.
Yes, I coined this phrase while typing the preview and yes, it's awful. But it's catchy, so I'm sticking with it. It... ahem... grows on you.
During the summer of 2013, a handful of first-time head coaches were hired to matching $2 million-per-year contracts. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Steve Clifford (Hornets), Dave Joerger (Grizzlies), Brett Brown (Sixers) and Jeff Hornacek (Suns) all received the same salary as rookie coaches at the bottom of the NBA coaching barrel. They were, all mostly still are, the lowest paid coaches in the league. Hornacek is the only one of the Horny Handful who's been fired, though Joerger was briefly on the chopping block in 2014 and the Sixers have had the patience of Job in Philly.
Speaking of Brandon Knight
There's still no timetable for a return to the lineup by Brandon Knight - the only scoring threat slotted to return from injury this year. Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren won't see the court again until this summer, but Knight (groin) is slowly progressing his way back into playing availability.
However, slow is a relative term. For Knight, whose turned ankle became season-ending right after he was acquired last year, healing from a strained anything has been a chore. Now he's entering his second month of trying to recover from groin strain. Let's hope he gets healthy soon.
It's in everyone's best interest to wait until he's 100%. Last year, he came back early with the ankle and just twisted it again. And with the season going as it is, all we need to see from Knight this year is that he's healthy and to evaluate his play next to Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin to get a better idea of their future fit.
After managing to get blown out once again by a bottom-feeder on Thursday night (the Nets), the Suns have given no indication they can win a game in the near future.
All the better for ping pong balls, but terrible for the players' and coaches' psyche.
Tonight projects to be another disheartening loss.