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Game Preview: Suns, Grizzlies face off on TNT

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The Phoenix Suns host the Memphis Grizzlies on national television tonight, with an 8:30PM tipoff on TNT

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Phoenix Suns

When: 8:30 PM —> Late start!

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: TNT (National)

Listen: 98.7 FM Arizona Sports/KTAR


Why are the Suns playing on TNT on a Monday night in January, against the equally not-so-big-market Memphis Grizzlies?

Who knows, but they are. And if Kellan Olson is right about anything, it’s that the Suns seem to play well when the ‘bright lights’ are on. They bring their best games against the likes of the conference-leading Warriors, Cavaliers, Raptors and Spurs (beating the latter two teams three times, and coming close on several others against the four).

The Grizzlies

Memphis is riding high with a new coach and a veteran lineup that knows how to play together. David Fizdale, still just 42 years old, paid his dues on the sidelines as an assistant coach for three NBA teams over 13 years before getting the top job in Memphis.

The Grizzlies still hang their hats on defense. They are 4th in the league on defense on the season, though they’ve dipped to 22nd in the month of January as they’ve gone 6-7 this month.

Offensively, the Grizzlies have never been that creative, focusing on execution to overcome lack to flash.

It helps that Marc Gasol has suddenly become a threat from behind the arc, making 40% of his 3.7 attempts per game. Gasol was once a third scoring option on the Grizzlies, but now he’s stepped into the lead role and scores 20 points every night, grabs six rebounds and his 4.2 assists per game ranks second on the team.

While Gasol was rewarded with his third All-Star appearance, teammate Mike Conley is still on the outside looking in. Conley is the league’s highest paid player, by virtue of being a free agent in the right summer, but has never made an All-Star team because of the guys ahead of him in this league. Yet he’s still one of the best in the league on both ends, this year posting numbers just a little behind the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe.

Zach Randolph comes off the bench these days as one of the most prolific bench players around - posting 14/8.4/1.8 in 24 minutes off the pine.

Fizdale generously mixes no-name young guys among some of the league’s oldest players to round out the rotation.

Tony Allen, 35 years old, is stil going strong on the perimeter (sorry Devin) and 40-year old Vince Carter is playing a lot younger than his age. You remember Vince Carter right? CTFVCOF still exists doesn’t it?!? It’s fun to note that Vince Carter is literally TWICE Devin Booker’s age.

Rookie Andrew Harrison (undrafted, 2015) plays a lot, while fellow rookies Deyonta Davis, Troy Williams and Wade Baldwin have each made it into about half of the Grizzlies games off the bench too.

The Suns

For the month of January, the 5-8 Suns have improved to 7th in the league on offense behind the heroics of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Tyson Chandler, though they still rank just 22nd on defense for the month compared to 22nd and 23rd, respectively, before that.

You know all about Booker, Bledsoe, and Chandler thanks to Bright Side coverage. Not much new to say on the Suns except that a 6-8 month (if they win tonight) would rank as their best winning percentage in a full month of basketball since November 2015.

Key matchup: Parsons vs. Suns twitter

Max contract Chandler Parsons has JUST now started playing games for the Grizzlies after sitting out months with that problematic knee. His most significant contribution to the game this year was an ill-fated exchange on twitter with the Blazers’ C.J. McCollum.

The Blazers themselves started the online fight (and later apologized), which McCollum ended with a right hook.

But of course, this is a shooter against the Suns. Don’t expect anything less than 20 from Parsons.

Prediction

Who knows. The Grizzlies are 6-7 this month while the Suns are 6-8. The Grizzlies are veteran laden winners, while the Suns are at the friendly confines of home.

Let’s go ahead and predict a Suns win to close out the month and rekindle a couple of playoff drive comments, just to make everyone happy.