Suns (62-15) lost by 8 at Memphis (55-23), who was resting six rotational pieces. The Suns got down big in the first quarter, pulled within one after three quarters but then gave up 38 in the fourth to get tagged with their first loss in 10 games.
Despite the talent disparity due to availability, Suns once again sleepwalked to start this one, including a 15-3 run by Memphis led by 8 points from Devin Booker’s archnemesis, Dillon Brooks.
The Suns defense struggled all quarter due in part to continued troubles on the glass. Grizzlies led the second chance points battle 13-0, but Booker hit rage mode and just started getting buckets on buckets.
Booker finished the quarter with 12 points on 4-7 shooting. Brooks led the way for Memphis with 11 on 5-11. Even after a disastrous quarter, Suns were “only” down 11.
Phoenix started the second quarter off with an all-bench lineup, and they went on an 8-2 run to start the quarter, capped off by a transition slam by Landry Shamet, forcing a Memphis timeout.
As the starters trickled in, Phoenix continued to close the gap slowly and surely. Along the way, Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins earned two straight technical fouls and kept yelling at the refs as he left the court, ejected with recent Phoenix assistant Darko Rajakovic taking over head coaching duties. Brooks then earned himself an additional technical.
Suns couldn’t quite catch up in the first half, but a nice Booker assist for a Jae Crowder three brought them within four at the half, 54-50. Booker (14 on 5-9) and Brooks (14 on 6-17) were the game’s only two players in double digits. Suns had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 9:9 in the half and Memphis was 14:5, and the Suns were down 10-0 in offensive rebounds.
Booker entered the locker room at half looking very upset about the way the team played during the first, and one can imagine that he, or someone else in the locker room, said something to the extent of “I’m not losing to a B-team” and the way they came out in the third quarter was evidence. Less than two minutes in, the Suns tied the game at 56.
As the Suns clawed their way to their first lead of the game in the third, Mikal Bridges became the second Sun to reach double-digit points. Booker earned himself a technical, and the “B” guards for either side just kept jawing and kept jawing.
Suns were down 1 at the end of the third, 83-84, meaning a potential loss would not break the squad’s perfect record when leading after three.
Unfortunately, Monty Williams kept the all-bench lineup for much too long to start the fourth quarter, and Memphis kept hitting back-breaking shots, including a reverse dunk by Santi Aldama, extending the lead to double digits with less than four minutes left.
Booker and Paul were hitting some late baskets for a last-ditch effort at a comeback W, but a dagger and-one from Brooks with 32 seconds left to give Memphis a 114-106 to essentially end this one.
Final: 122-114, Memphis wins.
Booker: 41/4/4 on 17-28 shooting
CP3: 8 points (2-6 shooting) & 11 assists
Ayton: 9 & 12
Brooks: 30 points on 28 shots
Six other Grizzlies with 10+ points
Suns visit Oklahoma City on Sunday at 4pm for the last game of this road trip; with the Thunder in full tank mode, it could be a get-right game where 63 is up for grabs again before starting some rest.