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Game Preview: Suns look to enter postseason race as they face Grizzlies

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (18-26) at Memphis Grizzlies (21-24)

When: 4:00 PM AZ time

Where: Memphis, Tennessee

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

The Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies battle tonight and this game is vital for the race for the eighth seed. Who would’ve thought in late January a game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns would’ve had importance other than just who’d get a better pick.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Probably my second favorite this year has been the rise of Ja Morant and the 21-24 Grizzlies, a team that has every reason to tank to keep their pick. With their first round pick belonging to the Celtics (unless it becomes a top 6 pick, in which to heads back to Memphis), the team has play with passion and fire that we haven’t seen since they were the Grit and Grind Grizzlies. The has won eight of their last ten games and although they recently lost 2 of their last three, they’re still cruising. What’s really interesting about the team is they’re not high up on the offensive or defensive rating boards, ranking 18th for offense and 22nd for defense overall. However, when you look at the last ten games, they’re sixth for offensive rating and 16th in defensive.

Morant has been a special star so far this year, cooking nearly everyone he’s played and providing highlight reel plays all the time. He’s leading the rookie of the year chase and unless Zion Williamson goes nuclear, he’s the best bet to win. He’s second on the team with points per game with 17.4 and has team-high 7.1 assist per game.

Jaren Jackson Jr. has played well his second year and been a force in the middle for the Grizzlies. He doesn’t have the flashy game like Morant but he’s been quietly leading the in ppg (18) while also racking up 5 rebounds a game and 1.7 blocks a game. He’s been a key for the rebirth of the Grizzlies.

Phoenix Suns:

After a terrible performance against the Pacers, the 19-26 Suns were to rebound a pick up a major win over the Spurs on the road. The team have been playing their best basketball in the recent weeks and have returned back to the playoff contention spot they had early in the season.

No surprise here but Devin Booker has been the major catalyst for this resurrection. Booker is averaging 26.7 points per game but he’s turned it up a notch the last few games, averaging 30.5 over the last ten games. He’s been able to score at will against really anyone he’s going up against and he’s been doing for the team, rebounding (4.1 per game) and assisting (6.4). If he’s able to keep this up, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be an all-star this season.

Deandre Ayton has been on fire in the recent weeks and before the Indiana game, he was having his best stretch, steadily rising since returning from his suspension. He put up four consecutive 20-10 games and though he’s been quiet scoring these last two games, He’s averaging 17.1 and 12 this season. With Booker and Ricky Rubio as his pick and roll partner, Ayton has been feasting on those plays and he’s been eating up rebounds. With no Aron Baynes, this should be a game in which Ayton dominates or at the very least, leaves his presence on the defensive side, something he’s been doing better recently.

The Suns are right next to the Grizzlies in terms of Offensive and defensive rating, ranking 16th for offense and 19th for defense. The team’s core around Booker and Ayton have played really well, particularly Rubio, who’s averaging team high 9 assist per game. After a major win over the Spurs, this is the perfect chance for the Suns to take control of their playoff dreams, something fans haven’t had in years.

Prediction:

This should be a fun game and though the Grizzlies have been rolling, I got go with the Suns puling a 120-112 victory,