GAME: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns
Time: 8:00 pm CST
PLACE: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
Records: Memphis (10-8), Phoenix (6-12)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Phoenix – Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat
This is a tale of two teams who need to right the ship. The Grizzlies have lost two in a row after winning the initial game on their West Coast road trip against the Warriors. The Suns have lost three in a row and 8 of 10 as they have been away from the friendly confines of the US Airways Center for most of their slide. Of course, maybe home isn’t such a sweet place for the Suns, since they have lost three in a row there, too.
The Grizzlies are coming off of a tough loss to the Clippers on TNT Thursday night. After getting down big early, they battled back and took the lead in the third quarter, but just couldn’t execute well enough at the end of the game to pull off the victory. Foul trouble and a poor shooting night plagued Mike Conley throughout the night, making it tough for him to get into a groove. Of course, everyone other than Rudy Gay struggled to put the ball through the orange cylinder, with the team shooting under 36% for the game. Hard to beat teams when you have to work that hard to score. O.J. Mayo really had difficulty, suffering through a 5-19 night that highlighted the team’s shooting difficulties.
The Suns saw their losing streak extended while the Toronto Raptors snapped their own 8-game slide in Phoenix on Tuesday night. Then they got blown out in Portland last night, 109-71. They scored 21 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters….combined. As an aside, I have to say it is tough to watch Steve Nash wind down his career on this team. It’s like he’s been transported from those amazing and entertaining teams from a few seasons ago to the Island of Misfit Toys or something.
For Memphis to win this game, they need to have Conley match Nash in terms of penetrating the lane and creating easy opportunities for teammates. That will lessen the need for ISO plays for Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, and will also help get Marc Gasol involved, both in the high and low post areas. On defense, they need to continue to close out on shooters and stay active in the passing lanes, while exploiting transition opportunities.
For Phoenix to win, they will have to play stifling defense, while hoping that Nash has another strong performance in him. Hitting some outside shots early will help open up the driving lanes for Nash and Co. They’ll also need to crash the boards, as they can’t afford to give up second chance opportunities to the bigger frontcourt of the Grizzlies.
Prediction: Grizzlies win a hard-fought game between two teams needing a win.