The Suns played their first game in a week and dropped an extremely winnable game, 108-104, to a depleted Memphis team in a loss that could haunt them later in the season.
Prior to tipoff, we learned Monty Williams made an adjustment to the Suns starting lineup by plugging in Cam Johnson for Jae Crowder, which is likely to be the big talking point coming out of the game aside from Devin Booker’s poor shooting night.
It was an understandably slow (and sloppy) start to the game as Phoenix looked to find its’ rhythm in the first 4 minutes or so, but after an Ayton throw down and Paul bullet pass to Bridges in transition that led to a Memphis timeout they looked more settled in.
CP3 facilitating, Ayton finishing, and Bridges impacting at both ends.— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 18, 2021
That's what you wanna see. pic.twitter.com/ovZh9Uixkb
Jevon Carter and Frank Kaminsky combined for three quick 3 pointers off the bench which led to a Memphis timeout yet again. Devin Booker really struggled in his first 10 minute stint, going 1-for-7 with 1 turnover and a technical foul. The first quarter was finished strong after a pair of triples from Jevon Carter and Chris Paul to close the quarter with the Suns leading Memphis 24 to 18. The Suns did a magnificent job on Morant in the 1st quarter, holding him scoreless on 0-3 shooting with 3 turnovers.
Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton hooked up for a nice pick and roll alley oop that many Suns fans envisioned they’d see a lot more frequently this season.
This CP3 lob to Ayton— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 18, 2021
Watch Suns vs. Grizzlies in the B/R app and on @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/tdvgg8cZmC
The Suns really struggled to find any consistency throughout the first half, as they would rely on a few hot streaks to keep them afloat after many cold stretches. Booker was mostly nonexistent and a negative impact in the 1st half, and they were held together through the strong play of Deandre Ayton and the bench’s strong three point shooting. Heading into the half the Suns trailed Memphis 52-48 after leading by as many as 10 points.
Phoenix struggled mightily to start the third quarter as they tried to force feed Deandre Ayton which led to choppy game play and a series of carless turnovers. Jae Crowder hit a couple threes to keep them hanging around midway through the quarter.
Deandre Ayton had (in my opinion) the most impressive dunk of his career that really shifted the momentum of the game.
Wooo lordy pic.twitter.com/lJo0BmsYgr— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 18, 2021
The defensive intensity for both teams picked up quite a bit towards the end of the third quarter with a lot of long possessions late in the shot clock from both teams. Heading into the 4th and final quarter Memphis led by a pair with the score sitting at 77-75.
The start of the 4th quarter had a better flow offensively for both clubs as it went back and forth, trading buckets quickly. Chris Paul started to play bit more aggressive hitting a couple mid-range jumpers and Cam Johnson drilled two threes to start the quarter off.
Phoenix pulled ahead by 6 points after a Cam Payne three and Mikal Bridges transition drive after a missed dunk by Brandon Clarke.
After Memphis cut the lead down to 2, Jae Crowder made an excellent pass on a cut by Mikal Bridges who had a chance to make a three point play by missed the free throw.
Booker missed a dunk and then a three pointer on consecutive possessions which allowed Memphis to recapture the lead at 101-98 after he left Grayson Allen wide open. A series of unfortunate events. They made one last push at the end after a Mikal Bridges three, but Grayson Allen sealed the deal at the free throw line and it was too little too late.
Star of the Game
Deandre Ayton: 18 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block on 7-of-14 shooting.
Despite the loss, this was by my favorite offensive game from Ayton this season due to how he scored his points. He completed a season-high of 5 dunks, including a couple posters and made a couple assertive moves off the dribble that got him to the charity stripe. He also controlled the game on the glass, making a ton of winning plays when they needed him most. If only the rest of the team showed up.
Next up: Suns @ Rockets on ESPN on Wednesday at 7:30 P.M.