When you looked at this stretch in the Phoenix Suns schedule early this year, especially when the Suns were riding along with a 15-6 record despite missing two starters for a month (Chris Paul and Cam Johnson), this whole Christmas weekend of basketball looked juicy. Memphis, then Nuggets, then Memphis again.
Now, though, it looks like a nightmare as the Suns lost by
The nightmare began on Friday night when Devin Booker remained out (groin) and head coach Monty Williams gave no indication pregame that he was close to returning.
It continued when Suns-Grizzlies tipped off. The Grizzlies shot out to a 32-10 lead, that included grabbing and putting back every one of their misses, and coasted from there. For most of the night, the Suns were — to keep the analogy going — sleepwalking.
And this after the Suns had two days to rest and ‘get right’ on their focus.
Of course, some of that is sheer size and talent (due to Suns injures) difference. The Grizzlies start a pair of true seven footers, while the Suns have only Ayton and a bunch of littles. Torrey Craig simply cannot box out either of Steven Adams or Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Ayton have grabbed more boards? Absolutely. But he was spending too much time looking at the driving ball-handler and deciding whether to contest or stay on his man. He made the wrong choices. Even when he forced a miss, the other big guy grabbed the offensive board and put it back. That’s how this game went.
It didn’t help that the Suns were missing All-Star Devin Booker, both Cams and, of course, Jae Crowder. They just aren’t deep enough to withstand those injuries, especially the one to Devin Booker.
When the Grizzlies went up 30 on back-to-back breakaways with the third quarter not even being over, I began to wish the NBA had a ‘running clock’ rule that could be enforced.
There are lots of stats, but the only stat that matters is that through the THIRD QUARTER, the Grizzlies were still outrebounding the Suns on their own misses (18 to 16). The Grizzlies also grabbed everything on the Suns’ end — grabbing 27 of 33 possible chances, including the first 14 available. That’s abysmal. The Suns only chance in this game was to make their threes, negating the chance for rebounds, and they only made 4 of 18 in the first half.
The Grizzlies had a 30-point lead and no chill. They played Ja Morant to the end of the third quarter, and then played almost the entire 4th with two starters — Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane — while the Suns were trying to run out the game with a whole bench. Monty brought Ayton and Bridges back for a few minutes just to keep up, but even went he took them back out the Grizz kept the starters in. Still up 30. Whatevs. I’m just frustrated. I know the counter to this is ‘just play basketball then’ but come on. That’s BS at this point.
Now it’s up to the Suns to remember this and take it personally. Can anyone take anything personally on this team except Book? We’ll find out. They play on national TV on Christmas in two days against the other West leader Denver, and then the Grizzlies again right after that. Buck up, Suns. Show some fight in these coming games.
Grizzlies win, 125-100. The Suns are now 19-14 and will play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Christmas Day. See you then.
Gonna be tough for the Suns in this one, missing several key players including All-Star Devin Booker and major role players in the Cams (and of course Jae).
On the other side, the Grizz have their full starting lineup for the first time all season and looked pretty good.
Welp. The full-squad Grizzlies opened up just like you’d expect, and the Suns opened up so much worse. Chris Paul got no help from anyone around him, and the Suns quickly found themselves down 15-4 — FIFTEEN TO FOUR — in game that didn’t even feel as close as that. Almost five minutes had passed, and the Suns were 2-7 from the floor with 2 turnovers, while the Grizzlies were (luckily for the Suns) only shooting 46% from the floor with 0 turnovers.
Gonna be a long night huh?
The sheer size of Jaren Jackson Jr. down there with Steven Adams means every single rebounds is going to them. Indeed the Suns were getting outrebounded 13-3 by the time the Grizzlies took a 25-8 lead.
At that point, Monty Williams punted on the starting lineup and replaced everyone but Mikal Bridges, while the Grizzlies took a break by putting in their bench around Ja Morant. Didn’t get any better. Pretty soon the Grizzlies lead was 32-10.
Nothing got better.
Suns fans are starting to boo at the lack of effort being put out by the team. They just look beaten. Punked. Ready to call it a night. That’s happened way too many times this season.
Way. too. many. times.
Halftime: Grizzlies 59, Suns 38.
Grizzlies have more offensive rebounds (14) than the Suns have defensive rebounds (13). Meaning, they’ve rebounded more of their own misses than the Suns have. That’s not how basketball is supposed to work. That’s really hard to accomplish. The Grizz have just been attacking the whole night and the Suns have just been standing around.
I’ll continue this update in the second half IF the Suns start playing like they care again.
The Suns started the second half ‘strong’ with a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 17, but then the Grizzlies did Grizzlies things again.
After getting six quick points to start the half, Ayton committed his third foul the next time down and then his fourth on the possession after that. Bye, DA.
The Suns got the lead down to 17 again, but Ja Morant got the Suns in the bonus on fouls less than three minutes into the quarter. Good lord.
At least the Suns are showing more fight to start this half. Too bad they didn’t show that fight at the beginning of the game.
Unfortunately, with Booker out the Suns have zero players left who can put the team on their back and carry them to a win like Book did a week ago over the Pelicans. Chris Paul has lost the juice. Ayton and Bridges never had it — not to the level of carrying your team to a win with big-ball shot after shot.
The Suns are also missing any spiritual leaders. I really feel like Willie Green was that guy, as the associate head coach two years ago. And at times it was Jae Crowder. And it was certainly Chris Paul the last two years. But this year? It’s Book or nothing. Everyone else is just there to contribute.
Despite trying harder in the second half, the Suns just didn’t have the juice to come back in any meaningful way.