What: Phoenix Suns (21-23, 11th in West) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (29-13, 2nd in West)
When: Monday, 4:00 PM AZ time
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN.
Watch: TNT, Bally Sports
Listen: 98.7 FM
This is a matchup of two teams trending opposite directions. Your Phoenix Suns have unfortunately been spiraling for weeks under an avalanche of injuries to key players, going just 2-8 over their last ten contests to fall under .500 after a reasonably strong start to the season. The Memphis Grizzlies, by contrast, are 9-1 over their last 10 and playing like NBA Finals contenders.
The two clubs split a pair of games in late December, with the Suns taking the second one 125-108 behind Duane Washington, Jr.’s 26 point outburst off the bench.
The Suns are currently 10.5 point underdogs in this one, per Draftkings.
The Suns are making it somewhat of a tradition to play in Memphis, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Here is Monty speaking back in 2021 when the Suns visited Memphis for a game during the league’s resumption of play mid-pandemic.
"To have this opportunity to play this particular game means a ton to me. I know it means a ton to our guys.”#Suns coach Monty Williams on playing Monday on #MLKDay against #GrindCity in Memphis. pic.twitter.com/0jowv8pc0h— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 18, 2021
There will be nine games played today, four of which will be broadcast on national television. The Suns will face the Grizzlies in the 4pm (AZ time) slot on TNT.
There will be a number of video tributes to King on television and in the arenas where the games are played. The players will be wearing custom shirts celebrating the man who won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
Probable Starting Lineups
- PG: Duane Washington, Jr.
- SF: Mikal Bridges
- SF: Torrey Craig
- PF: Dario Saric
- C: Deandre Ayton
- PG: Ja Morant
- SG: Desmond Bane
- SF: Ziaire Williams
- PF: Jaren Jackson, Jr.
- C: Steven Adams
The Grizzlies are a tough matchup for the Suns. They’re a strong, physical team that boasts the top defense in the entire league.
On offense, they go as their backcourt goes. Ja Morant is an explosive point guard who can flash the rim for highlight reel dunks in the blink of an eye, and shooting guard Desmond Bane has emerged as one of the NBA’s most consistent three point marksman as he’s averaging over 40% from downtown on significant volume for the third straight season.
They aren’t at full strength either, but they are certainly nowhere near as injury-ravaged as the Suns. They have a fairly deep bench that they aren’t afraid to lean on. Athletic and energetic forward Brandon Clarke routinely plays heavy minutes off the bench for Memphis.
- Cam Johnson (knee) is OUT
- Devin Booker (groin) is OUT
- Chris Paul (hip) is OUT
- Landry Shamet (hip) is OUT
- Cam Payne (foot) is OUT
- John Konchar is DAY-TO-DAY
- Dillon Brooks is DAY-TO-DAY
- Danny Green (knee) is OUT
I can’t sugarcoat this, fellow Suns fans: on paper the Suns look set to be playing the blues in Memphis. It’s a road contest against one of the league’s best teams and with the Suns seriously lacking in offensive firepower against the NBA’s top defense. The Suns at least have had some rest, having not played since a Jan. 13 loss at Minnesota.
If they figure on leaving Monday night with a win, the Suns will need some great efforts. Deandre Ayton will face tough physical defenders, but needs to find a way to get involved in the offense throughout the game. It would really help if Washington Jr. could replicate his lights-out scoring effort from the last contest, too.
Unfortunately, I don’t see the stars aligning for an orange W. The Suns fall 115-106, and pressure continues to mount on the front office to make a move before the season slips out of reach.