The suddenly surging Phoenix Suns built a 29-point lead in the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies and had a 28-point lead midway through the third quarter, but then got into foul trouble, lost their aggression and let the Grizzlies get all the way back into the game.
The Suns got Cameron Johnson and Chris Paul back from injury in this one, but were still missing a handful of players including a pair of starters in All-Star Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, plus key reserves Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne and, always missing but NEVER forgotten, Jae Crowder. Still, this is the healthiest the Suns have been in weeks.
Phoenix got off to a great start, buoyed by Chris Paul playing like an All-Star in his first game in weeks after a hip injury. Paul scored 15 points in the opening quarter, staking the Suns to a 14-point lead that energized the whole team.
But they couldn’t sustain the energy, especially when the aggressive Grizzlies got the Suns into major foul trouble. The Suns lead fell from 28 with 8 minutes left in the third to 18 with a few seconds left in the 4th, to 14 with just over 5 minutes left in the 4th to 2 with just over 28 seconds left in the 4th.
Memphis just ground their way through this game as the Suns could not keep their foot on the gas long enough to put them away. They used supreme aggression throughout the fourth quarter, getting all the foul calls because they were the ones making all the plays while the foul-ridden Suns were back on their heels.
With the game totally in the balance, Dario Saric drove to the rim and drew a foul on Ja Morant, and drained the free throws to give the Suns a 4-point lead.
Suns up 112-108 with 12.8 seconds to go.
The Grizzlies cut it to 112-110 with 7.6 to go, but then a loose-ball scrum ensued and time expired before anyone could get another shot off.
Suns outlast Grizzlies, 112-110.
The Suns are now 24-24 with a 3-game winning streak, and are back up to 7th in the West.
Chris Paul played 38 minutes and finished with 22 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Mikal Bridges had 24 to lead the Suns in scoring, plus 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Dario Saric had 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, including the last two points for the Suns to seal the game.
For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant had 28 points and 8 assists. Desmond Bane had 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
First Half Notes
The Phoenix Suns got a couple of players back into their starting lineup tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies in Cameron Johnson and... oh yeah that Chris Paul guy.
You remember All-Star Chris Paul? He hasn’t been seen since he turned 37 years old, but tonight’s game was one heck of a reminder that maybe just maybe the good Chris Paul still exists.
After missing almost two of the season’s first three months due to nagging injuries to his toe and hip, Paul returned in prime form. He scored 15 of the Suns 32 first quarter points, including the buzzer-beating three to put the Suns up 32-18.
But the Suns weren’t just all about Chris Paul. Their second unit — you know, the guys who’ve mostly been starters this past month — kept up the pressure and put the Suns up 45-27 before Paul even returned at the 7:05 mark of the second quarter.
At halftime, the Suns had an impressive 25-point lead, 62-37, over the #2 team in the West that had just beaten the Suns by 30 a week ago in Memphis.
Chris Paul had 17 points on a team-leading 11 shots, plus 6 rebounds and 6 assists. THAT’S the Chris Paul we’ve been missing. Mikal Bridges added 11 points, and Jock Landale had 8 points off the bench. Dario Saric was also impressive in his stint as a power forward next to Jock in the second unit. He had 7 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in only 11 minutes.
Second Half Notes
The Suns only problem is Bismack Biyombo committing his 4th foul on the opening possession of the second half, but things balanced out the next time down when Mikal Bridges drew Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 4th foul.
Still, Biyombo had to take a break and now the Suns have to contend the rest of the night against mammoth Steven Adams with just Jock Landale and Dario Saric. Good thing the Suns have a 28 point lead, 69-41, at this point.
The Grizzlies put on the pressure then in the third, trying to exert some will, as the Suns lost a bit of their mojo. They cut the Suns lead to 15 at the end of the quarter with a full-court heave that dropped, leaving the Grizzlies down only by 15 points, 87-72, to end the third.
Torrey Craig has been the Suns biggest scorer, with 20 points through three quarters to lead the team. Chris Paul did not score in the third, though he did dish 3 more assists to give him 9 on the night. Suns bigs have big foul trouble — Landale and Dario BOTH with 5 and Biyombo with 4. Tough when Deandre Ayton is out.
Ja Morant started the 4th quarter, seeing if the Grizzlies could close the gap even further, especially considering the Suns lead being cut in half.
For a while, the Suns kept the lead and even extended it back to 19, but then the Grizzlies went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 12, at 98-86, with 6:46 left.
That’s a 45-29 Grizzlies run since the Suns biggest lead at 69-41 with under 9 minutes left in the third quarter.
A couple minutes later it became a 12-0 Grizzlies run to cut the Suns lead to 98-91 with 5:18 left in the game. Butt cheeks all around the Footprint Center were puckered.
But all was not lost. Not with Chris Paul in the game. On the next possession, Jock Landale FINALLY made a basket for the Suns and then Mikal Bridges made a pair of threes to put the Suns back up 107-93.
The Grizzlies got it down to 9 again with 3 minutes to go, forcing a Suns timeout. Then they got consecutive fouls on Jock Landale (fouled out) and Bismack Biyombo (his 5th).
Lead down to 7 again, 107-100, and there was still 2:45 to go. A minute later, Biyombo fouled out too, trying to defend a fast break after Chris Paul made a bad turnover in the paint. Zaire Williams got the Suns lead down to 6 by splitting a pair of free throws.
Cam Johnson nearly lost the ball on the next possession, but somehow came up with it and drained a jumper, with a foul, to put the Suns back up 9, but then Dillon Brooks cut it to 6 again. 110-104 Suns.