Suns Come Up Short Against Grizzlies, Final Score 95-93
Currently 1-3 on their road trip, the Suns took a trip to Memphis on Sunday to take on the Grizzlies. After losing the last three by a total of 11 points, the Suns look to ramp up the defense against the Grizzlies’ bigs. Tyson Chandler was in street clothes still suffering from the hamstring injury, which gave Alex Len the start, and John Leuer got the start once again over Markieff Morris, who suited up but recorded a DNP-Coaches Decision.
The Suns started the game with two offensive rebounds on their way to an open three from Brandon Knight on their first possession. The Suns forced an early timeout by Memphis with an Alex Len dunk off of a nice pass from John Leuer. After starting the game up 12-2 due to 8 quick points from Brandon Knight, the Grizzlies’ offense started to click, going on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 12. Going on a stretch of going 0-10 from the field, TJ Warren got the Suns offense back on its feet with a fast break lay up. The quarter ended with Memphis up on the Suns with a score of 20-16.
The Suns continued their cold streak into the second quarter, and were not able to take care of the ball, turning the ball over. Fortunately the Suns were able to force Memphis to turn the ball over as well, keeping within a couple possessions of the Grizzlies. The Suns weren’t able to score points until Eric Bledsoe checked back into the game where he scored the Suns’ first six points of the quarter. After getting within two points, the Grizzlies ran off an 8-0 run to go up by ten. The Suns went on a 12-4 run to get within two points at half time, with Leuer contributing off of some strong moves on Zach Randolph. The Suns shot 36% from the field in the first half compared to the Grizzlies shooting 46%, but were able to steal the ball 6 times, with the Grizzlies turning the ball over a total of 9 times. The Suns attempted 18 three in the first half, but only connected on 22% of them.
Len got the first points of the quarter for the Suns, getting a putback dunk off of a Leuer miss. Both Suns guards were able to hit shots from deep early in the third to regain a lead in the game for the first time since the first. The Suns were able to push their lead to eight points before the Grizzlies were able to make another run to tie the game. Mirza Teletovic was quiet up until the third, where he was able to hit his first three of the night, and then followed it up with another three on the following possession. The Suns were able to finish the quarter with a lead of 68-67.
Teletovic continued to find his shot in the fourth, hitting a quick three to start the quarter. The Suns committed some bad fouls, allowing the Grizzlies to get into the bonus within two and a half minutes of the fourth. The Grizzlies used the fouls to get into a rhythm, and grabbed a four point lead early in the quarter. The Suns had a chance to tie the game at 89, but Bledsoe missed a contested layup with three Grizzlies around him, which lead to an open three by Courtney Lee on the other end. With 13 seconds left, Marc Gasol was called for a loose ball foul against Leuer. Leuer missed both free throws, but Len was able to tip in the rebound, tying the game at 93 with 11 seconds left. After getting called for a goal tend, the refs reviewed the call, and the call was overturned, making it a tie game with 2.1 seconds left in the game. Knight botched the the dribble on the inbound, giving Memphis .8 seconds to shoot in the game. The Grizzlies were able to complete an alley opp dunk on the inbound, giving the Grizzlies a 95-93 lead with half a second left in the game. The Suns didn’t have enough time to run a play, and couldn’t put a good shot up in that amount of time. The Suns shot 43.9% from the field, 29% from the three point line, and 70.6% from the free throw line. The Suns continued to have problem with turning the ball over, giving up 18 turnovers. The Suns have one more game on this road trip, facing off against the Bulls on Monday before facing the Magic back in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Leuer continued to make the most of his chance in the starting lineup, scoring ten points and totaling eleven rebounds. He only shot 3-11 from the field, but he shot 1-3 from behind the ark and 3-5 from the free throw line. Leuer totaled 3 blocks, playing strong defense throughout the game. The efficiency will get better, none of the players shot that well from the field. If he can keep these number on that better efficiency, that will be all he needs to keep the starting spot.
Len scored 12 points in the spot of Chandler, and recorded seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks. He was one of only two Suns who shot over 50% from the field, 5-6 from the field(The other being Warren, who shot 3-4). Len’s clutch block on Mike Conley in the closing seconds of the game gave the Suns a chance to either score or take the game into overtime. Unfortunately neither of those things happened, but that isn’t on Len. Chandler can take all of the time he needs to get back if Len continues to play like this.
Knight had another bad turnover with the game winding down. With two seconds left, all he needed to do was keep the ball safe and the game would go into overtime. Knight has done this at least three times on this road trip, throwing a bad pass instead of taking a foul while having a lead against Detroit, and turned the ball over trying to dribble between his legs in crunch time with a lead against Brooklyn. The Suns need to run better inbound plays, and maybe look to get the ball into Bledsoe’s hands on those plays to make sure possession is secured.