The Grizzlies (13-13) are one of those teams that the Suns (19-10) have not had success against as of late. Yes, I hear you. Over the past decade their a list that goes from Phoenix Suns Arena to Sky Harbor International Airport filled with teams and players who have played well against the Suns. But Memphis really has owned them.
Prior to the matchup this evening, Phoenix had lost 21 of the last 30 to Memphis and 5 of the last 5. Their lineup and roster build makes creates trouble for Phoenix. On a 32° Saturday night in February against a hampered Grizzlies team, the Suns finally got one against their Western Conference foe.
And they did so in record fashion. The Suns set a franchise record with 24 threes in the game, and posted the most threes in back to back games in franchise history as well, with 46. The Suns led by 31 at halftime and held that margin throughout the second half.
Cameron Payne and Devin Booker both made five threes, while Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul each drained four.
Memphis was hobbled in this one as Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen and Killian Tillie were all out for the game. Jaren Jackson, Jr. has yet to play for the Grizzlies this season. What’s the old adage? “Kick them while they’re down”? That was the expectation entering this one.
Here is how it happened.
A scorching 4th quarter on Friday night in New Orleans didn't necessarily translate to the first quarter on Saturday. When the early 0-5 shooting funk began, there was Chris Paul to get the team going. He continues to be an aberration this season. This guy is nearly 36 years-old. He should have a skillset that is diminishing. But it’s not. He’s ability to shoot, to set up his team, to push the pace or slow it down; these are qualities that are vital foe the Suns success this season.
Chris Paul has accounted for every Suns point so far tonight— Cap'n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters (@DervishOfWhirl) February 21, 2021
I wonder how much the opposition, or at least opposing fans, become frustrated when they see the likes of Frank Kaminsky hitting three-pointers. I’m sure their first reaction is along the lines of, “who the hell is this dude?”. While his frame is indicative of someone who should be living under the basket, his athleticism doesn’t agree. He entered the game shooting 44.4% from long range and continued his hot shooting into this one.
So did the Suns. Up 13 after one.
Suns hot three-point shooting boarded the plane in New Orleans and has joined them in Memphis. 19-2 run to end the first, 5-11 from deep.— Suns JAM Session Podcast (@SunsJAM) February 21, 2021
The Grizzlies are 0-9 from beyond the arc, matching the 32° temperatures outside of the FedEx Forum.
The depth of the Phoenix Suns is something none of should take for granted. I have seen nights in which the second team unit mirrors what the Grizzlies had tonight and you know what? I don't want to go back.
The lack of healthy bodies for Memphis was apparent in the first half. No Ja Morant? No ball movement, no easy shots, no chemistry.
I'm a *pretty* big NBA fan, but I have absolutely no clue who Sean McDermott and John Konchar are. Memphis without Ja looks pretty helpless.— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) February 21, 2021
Mikal Bridges was aggressive early in the game, opting to drive to the cylinder and draw contact. He continues to cut and find ways to get himself open. Granted, I would like to see him do this with more consistency. And he will.
Bridges is rewarded in this offense for his effort. He finished the first half with 13 points on 4-4 shooting. He was the recipient of a Chris Paul assist that moved him past the great Oscar Robertson on the all-time assist leaderboard:
The Suns defense coupled with the polar vortex cold shooting from Memphis allowed Phoenix to build a comfortable lead into half time. Phoenix forced the issue and actually scored points from the free throw line! 10 of them!
The Grizzlies shot an abysmal 29.2% from the field with a unfathomable 5.9% from deep (1-18). They were flustered on the interior by Deandre Ayton as he swatted two blocks. His shot deterring presence thwarted drives and
Aytons defense has been very damn good tonight— Knowmes (@Uknowmes1) February 21, 2021
he can score zero points for the rest of the game if he plays D like the first half
Booker with 15 points, CP3 and Bridges with 13, Saric with 10 off the bench. Suns shoot 50% and hit from deep 13 times. You put it all together and the Suns found themselves walking to the locker room with a lead. A sizeable one. A 31-point one.
The Suns held the Grizzlies to 34 points in the first half, a season best for Phoenix. They outscored their opponents by 60 points in the last two halves going back to Friday’s affair with the Pelicans. It was the largest lead going into halftime for the Suns in a road game...ever.
Great first half. Let’s make it a great game. 48 minutes.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) February 21, 2021
We’ve seen this before, right? Suns up big at half time. Would they let it fizzle? Would they let Memphis back in the game? Would they lose their focus and think they one half of basketball was good enough to win it?
Um...not tonight, folks.
The goal is to avoid allowing the opposing team to make a run. Don’t let them have confidence. The Suns started the third the way the ended the second: hitting that three ball.
MIKAL BRIDGES.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 21, 2021
3 to start the half!
Phoenix kept the Griz at an arms length throughout the third quarter. Devin Booker scored 10 in the period including 2-2 from three. Ayton was aggressively rebounding the ball and finding himself open for a Valley-Oop (h/t Espo).
Last night the Suns tied the franchise record for most three-pointers in a game with 22. As the team entered the fourth quarter with a comfortable 32-point lead, the record was in jeopardy. The Suns had 20 made on 38 shots through three quarters.
Phoenix chose to sit the Monsters of the Mid-Range (Paul and Booker) entering the 4th, given the lead. They had accounted for 9 of the makes from beyond the arc, so we wouldn’t have their services to help break the record. Damn it Monty, we want this!
(Side note...do you know how fun it is to write about watching the Suns try to break a record rather than suffer through a stress-filled 4th quarter? I love this year).
Here is a record of the Suns pursuit of the record, citing all 3PA’s in the fourth:
- Cam Payne pumped a three and then tried to feed Dario down low resulting in a turnover. Doh!
- Dario hit #21 on a fast break feed from E’Twaun Moore. Sha-zam!
- Dario misses a three of the front left of the rim. Use your legs kid.
- Cameron Payne ties the record for the second consecutive night with a 26-footer. Still over 6 minutes to go. OMG. It’s going to happen...
- Ladies and gentlemen, mark it on your calendar: February 20, 2021, Cameron Payne hits the 23rd three of the game and sets the franchise record!
NEW FRANCHISE RECORD— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 21, 2021
Suns hit their 23 three! pic.twitter.com/gICk5w6VmB
Cam Payne added another late hit, pushing the record to 24.
Well, that was a fun game to cover. The Suns move to 19-10 with their 31-point win.
Star of the Game
The Point God passed Oscar Robertson in all-time assists. Although only 238 of those have come in a Phoenix uniform, it is a credit to the caliber of player that is our primary ball handler. Appreciate it.
He continues to be the source of offense when the Suns become stagnant. Phoenix started the night 0-5. CP3 decided he would start the scoring and added the first 5 points for the Suns. From their the team shot 46-85 (.541) the remainder of the game.
Paul’s final stat line: 16 points, 6 assists, 2 boards, 4-5 from three...all in 22 minutes.
CP3 is the only player I know that can be completely wide open set his feet and take a 3 and you know it’s going in.— OneHeart4SUNS (@cpasion8) February 21, 2021
How is the guy I hated for over a decade becoming my favorite player on this team? He takes the tough shots. He displays mental toughness. He is a leader. And I’ll follow.
A tasty matchup awaits us this Monday as the Phoenix Suns play host to the Portland Trailblazers. This is a team that entered tonight tied with the Suns record-wise and we will be jockeying for position the remainder of the season.
Will Dame Lillard be on a mission to show the fans that it is he who should have received the nod for the Western Conference starters in the All Star game? Go off all you want Lillard. I just want the win.
Hope you had as much fun as I did. Until next time, enjoy the ride Bright Side.