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Aftermath: Suns lose big, but Chriss shines and Booker continues productive streak

Marquese Chriss scores career high 20, but Suns fall by 19 to hot-shooting Grizzlies

NBA: Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Another night, another loss for the Phoenix Suns. This time it was the Memphis Grizzlies gouging the home team with a barrage of three-pointers.

Memphis made 15 of their first 24 three point attempts, a crazy number from a team that only made 34.9% of their threes on the season and had not blown a team out with a wire-to-wire lead all season.

Mike Conley was unreal, making 11 of his first 13 shots and finishing with 38 points and 8 assists.

“Mike Conley was a general tonight,” Devin Booker said afterward. “He was picking apart our team. We weren’t sure on our coverage tonight. We had a game plan going in. Once we got out there, I mean it’s easy to have a game plan in practice but until you’re actually going up against a player like Mike Conley (or) Marc Gasol, it’s different. It was tough. They were hot today, mixed in with really good players that know how to find the open man. It was a tough game for us.”

Here’s Booker’s full postgame interview.

Zach Randolph and JaMychal Green each made a pair of corner threes, and Marc Gasol made a pair from the top of the key. Basically, the Grizzlies got what the Grizzlies wanted.

“I think on the defensive end, we were losing focus, me included,” rookie Marquese Chriss said afterward. “Losing the weak-side corner man. The wing players, they were driving it into the post and they were doing well at finding the extra pass. I think we were closing out a little late. It got away from us when they started making a lot more shots down the road.”

Chriss, 19 years old, and Booker, 20, were the Suns leading scorers on Monday night. Chriss set a new career high with 20 points, along with 6 rebounds, in a career high 34 minutes while Booker posted his 13th straight 20+ point game.

Chriss’ career high included the full range of his offensive potential - dunks, threes, a one-handed alley-oop finish in transition that looked impossible to reach, offensive rebound put backs and a mid-range catch-and-shoot jumper.

Watch him here.

“I think staying on the floor is my biggest thing,” Chriss said to reporters. “Getting in foul trouble is hurting me and it hurt me the last three games. I think today was a different thing.”

Here’s his full interview.

Chriss amassed only three fouls on the night in his 34 minutes, also tossing in two steals and a block.

Booker was hounded by Grizzlies wing defenders all night - going the middle two quarters with hardly a single open touch as Tony Allen and James Ennis played tight and physical with Booker, even fighting through screen after screen to contest every shot.

“Defensively I thought we did a pretty good job of containing their backcourt,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said. “Making them do something else outside of their game. We made them a little uncomfortable.”

Booker struggled to get to his 22 points, going back to the November/December version with 6-20 shooting. At one point, Booker missed three consecutive layups on a single possession (accounting for two of his 6 rebounds at least), showing he just didn’t have “it” but also that the Grizzlies physicality had gotten to him a bit.

Eric Bledsoe only scored 14 on points on 3-11 shooting, making the Booker-Bledsoe combo 9-31 on the night.

With Bledsoe’s 14 points, he finished just shy of averaging 25 points for the month. Booker, however, did finish the month with 25+ point average, the first time a Phoenix Suns player has averaged 25+ points for a calendar month since Amare Stoudemire in 2010.

Rookie Report

You’ve already read about Chriss.

Dragan Bender is still nursing a sore ankle (missing his 4th straight game), while Tyler Ulis was recovering this week from having a cold recently.

Ulis played 15 minutes on Monday night, with 5 points, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Watson talked pregame about Chriss, in particular, hitting a rookie wall. But like Booker a year ago, Chriss denied feeling tired after his 20-point game, even joking a bit about wanting to dispel that myth.

“I think somebody said I was in a slump, they said I hit the rookie wall,” Chriss said. “No, I’m not tired at all. My body feels good. Playing in the game, playing the whole first quarter I felt good and I’m like, ‘alright, I want to play the whole second quarter.’ Came out, went back in and my legs still feel fresh.”

All-Star weekend?

Per the players themselves, neither Derrick Jones Jr. (dunk contest) nor Devin Booker (three-point contest) have been approached to participate yet in those contests. Very few leaks have come out, and even one of those (Jones) was debunked directly by him.

And nothing has been mentioned on this, but I could definitely see Eric Bledsoe being invited to participate in the Skills Challenge, given the great all-around season he’s had so far. Bledsoe is still one of only four NBA players - all the rest All-Stars and MVP candidates - putting up a nightly 20/6/5 line. It’s worth noting that, while Bledsoe gets a bad rap for turnovers in his career, he averages the fewest turnovers per game among the four.

All we know so far is that Booker and Chriss will be in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend.

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