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Preview: Suns host Grizzlies on a back-to-back

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After another disappointing loss in Los Angeles, the Suns head into Christmas starting with Memphis at home.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns will take on the Grizzlies for the first time this season on Thursday night at home.

What: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns

When: 7:00 PM AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona, NBA League Pass

Listen: 98.7 FM


It would be tough to find a team whose season has been more heartbreaking this year than the Grizzlies’. After starting the season surprisingly hot behind bench additions Tyreke Evans and Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies plummeted back to Earth, losing eight straight before firing their coach, David Fizdale.

They are still without Mike Conley, their best player and star. Without him, they have been helpless -- even Marc Gasol has struggled through what is possibly his worst season.

When he is on the court, the Grizzlies defend at a level equal to the Cavaliers’ 28th-ranked unit. When he is off, they become the league’s best unit by a mile. That’s not the typical trademark of a former Defensive Player of the Year. The offense has been better without him, too.


Injuries

Grizzlies: Memphis will be without Mike Conley and Wayne Selden for tonight’s game, parts one and two of the duo that projected to be their starting backcourt this year.

Brandan Wright may make his return tonight from a groin injury (sounds familiar!).

Suns: The usual suspects will be on the bench tonight — Devin Booker, Brandon Knight, Davon Reed and Alan Williams.


Final Thoughts

My attention will be focused on the backup wing spots, where Josh Jackson and Tyreke Evans figure to do battle throughout the evening. It remains to be seen whether Jackson can keep up when he steps on the court, as Evans has been far and away the Grizzlies’ best player this season.

But stylistically, Evans jumps out as someone who Jackson may have more comfort defending than a DeMar DeRozan or even Austin Rivers, who he struggled against last night.

Quietly, Jackson’s defensive box plus-minus has crept up, and he now sits highest out of the team’s non-big man rotation players. That means he’s having the most consistent impact on the team’s defensive box score statistics per 100 possessions. It’s really the only way he’s impressed, so perhaps he can build on that development tonight.