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Game Preview: Suns looking to make it six straight in matinee game against the Grizzlies

It’s the final game of group play in the In-Season Tournament for the Suns, and a big win could place them in the knockout round.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (9-6) @ Memphis Grizzlies (3-11)

When: 3:00pm AZ Time

Where: FedEx Arena, Memphis, Tennessee

Watch: Arizona’s Family 3TV

Listen: KMVP 98.7 FM


Who is ready for a Black Friday afternoon game? Send the family to the chaos of the real world, where trampling for television sets is commonplace. Stay at home, turn on the TV you’ve already purchased without committing a felony, and enjoy the final game of In-Season Tournament group play for your Phoenix Suns.

The Suns still have a chance to make it to the knockout round, which carries eight teams from group play to Las Vegas starting December 7. Each conference has three groups, labeled “Group A”, “Group B”, and “Group C”. Each winner of those groups automatically advances to the knockout round, and in Group A (where the Suns reside), the Lakers have already staked claim to that automatic bid. The final two teams are comprised of the teams with the next best records in group play, with point differential being the tiebreaker.

The Suns sit at 2-1 with a +13 point differential. There are plenty of variables and other teams vying for those final two spots, so here is what you need to know as it relates to this game: Suns need to win, and doing so by a sizeable margin will greatly help their chances of advancing to the inaugural In-Seaon Tournament Knockout Round.

Phoenix plays Memphis, the second-worst team in the Western Conference this season, who is without Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Luke Kennard, Marcus Smart, Xavier Tillman, and Brandon Clarke. This is a team that is drowning, desperate for a breath of air to fill their lungs.

But we know the Suns have an affinity for playing down to the level of their competition and for playing unfocused basketball. So we’ll see...

Starting Lineups

Injury Report

Phoenix:

  • Bradley Beal - OUT (Low Back Strain)
  • Drew Eubanks - OUT (Left Ankle Sprain)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)
  • Yuta Watanabe - OUT (Left Quad Contusion)

Memphis:

  • Ja Morant - OUT (suspension)
  • Steven Adams - OUT (knee)
  • Luke Kennard - OUT (knee)
  • Marcus Smart - OUT (ankle)
  • Xavier Tillman - OUT (knee)
  • Brandon Clarke - OUT (Achilles)

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of NBA LockerVision:

What to Watch For

Memphis has been adjusting to blow after blow this season, and as a result, they are discombobulated. They are 28th in offensive rating, but 13th in defensive rating. They can be dangerous if you don’t take them seriously. With the majority of the firepower from a season ago in street clothes, it is Desmond Bane who has assumed the role of offensive orchestrator. He is averaging 25.6 points and 4.7 assists, shooting 37.4% from the floor and taking 20 shot attempts per night.

Former Phoenix Suns’ center Bismack Biyombo has joined the Grizzlies, allowing 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson, Jr. to slot in at the power forward position. It is clear why the Grizz are second in the league in blocked shots. Second to whom? The Phoenix Suns. Expect plenty of swatted shots in this one, which makes attacking the paint a challenge for both teams.

It may come down to perimeter shooting, where Phoenix has the edge. While attempting 33.1 three-pointers — 19th in the NBA — the Suns are second in three-point percentage at 39.3%. Kevin Durant shooting 52.2% on 4.5 attempts certainly helps.

The Grizzlies are a team that loves to shoot the three-ball, jacking up 40.6 a night — 4th most in the NBA — but hitting only 33.4% of them, which is 29th in the league. We know how it can go, however. A struggling team at home, plagued by injury and circumstance. One three-pointer drops and the floodgates can open quickly.

Watch Phoenix’s perimeter defense, as that may be the difference in the game. How are they rotating? What are weak-side defenders doing? Are they collapsing or staying home?

Keys to a Suns Win

Mental sharpness.

We’ve seen that the Suns, when they build a big lead or appear to have a game in hand, lose focus on execution. Whether it be from the first or second team unit, the Suns have displayed inconsistency in conducting their game plan to close out games. Not only do turnovers occur, but they lead to easy points for the opposition. The snowball effect occurs, the opposing team gains confidence, and they lose control.

Phoenix must focus on the fundamentals of basketball throughout. A wounded dog is dangerous, and Memphis is beyond wounded. They're being given last rights. No need to allow the Holy Spirit to enter their body and make them believe that they can be revived. Sweep the leg, Johnny.

Prediction

I am worried about the Suns’ ability to defend the perimeter coupled with the Grizzlies’ fondness for shooting from deep. I can see this being an irritant early on, which was similar to what occurred when Phoenix defeated the Portland Trail Blazers this past Tuesday. The three-ball kept the Blazers in the game before the Suns could put them away.

The same script will occur here. Hot Phoenix start, three-pointers keep the Grizzlies in the game through the second and third quarters, with the Suns pulling away late and Frank Vogel playing his starters a few minutes too long. Not because he wants to. Because he has to.

Suns 121, Grizzlies 106

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