It was a tough day for the entire NBA community following the heartbreaking news on Kobe Byrant’s death and the death of his eldest daughter Gianna Byrant. For many of the players in the league like Devin Booker and Ja Morant, this news rocked them to their core as their idol was gone and there’s those who lost a teammate, a rival, a friend and a mentor. For millions of fans around the world, they lost one of their favorite players ever. Though the Black Mamba can never be replaced, he’ll never be forgotten either in our hearts.
Even with this tragic news, the NBA decided to let the games be played tonight and thus, the Suns and Grizzlies went at it with the Suns losing 114-109. The team falls to 19-27 on the season and loses the series matchup with 22-24 Grizzlies, giving them the tiebreaker. The game started with a heartfelt tribute to Byrant as the Grizzlies took a 24 second shot clock violation and the Suns took an eight second backcourt violation.
The game started poorly for Phoenix as they shot 7-23 from the field in the first quarter, leading to the 30-18 deficient. Though the Suns were able to make it a game in the second half and even take the lead at one point, the Grizzlies were unfazed by the Suns, snatching the lead back in the fourth quarter.
A big reason the Grizzlies were so dominant and so efficient shooting (44-84 overall) was due to how much damage the team did in the paint. Memphis scored 66 points in the paint, while the Suns put up 38 points. This, plus a solid performance from the entire team was enough for the Grizzlies to overcome the Suns’ big three. The best coming from Morant who scored 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Despite the loss, Booker played strong, scoring 36 points on 24 shots and five assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. also had a strong game as he racked up 27 points and nine rebounds. Finally, Deandre Ayton had a good game as he scored 17 points but gobbled up 15 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. After these three, no one really had a good performance for the Suns, with Jevon Carter’s eight points being the next highest contribution for the team.
In the end, it was tough for either team to focus, as head coach Monty Williams told media that he felt the games should’ve been postponed or canceled following the news. The Suns head to Dallas to face the Mavericks on January 28th.