Updated Apr 15, 2014 - 8:24 am
Suns Strokes: Phoenix comes up short with season on the line
But it is the end of the line for the 2013-14 Suns as they were eliminated from playoff contention, losing to the Grizzlies 97-91 in their home finale.
"We basically told them that we were proud to coach them because they listened, they tried to do everything we asked, they came in and worked hard the whole year and that's a great sign and a great foundation that we put together for going forward," head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Markieff Morris led five players in double figures, scoring 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Goran Dragic and Channing Frye each had 14, Eric Bledsoe 13 and Miles Plumlee 12.
Plumlee's basket with 1:27 remaining gave the Suns a 91-90 lead. But they would not score again, missing their final five shot attempts as the Grizzlies scored seven straight points.
Zach Randolph and Mike Miller both set season-highs in scoring. Randolph finished with 32 points, Miller 21 as the Grizzlies clinched the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Nobody expected them to do what they did this season," Randolph said of the Suns. "You've got to take your hat off to them. They had a great season. Bledsoe, he's a stud. Dragic and all the other guys are great young players. They're a great team with a lot of talent and up and coming."
The Suns close out the season at Sacramento on Wednesday.
Markieff Morris scored 14 second-half points, including eight in the third quarter. He now sits at exactly 1,100 points off the bench for the season (most in the NBA), becoming just the third player in Suns history to score at least 1,100 as a reserve in a season.
Frye scored seven points during an 11-4 run to open the second half to give the Suns their largest lead of the game, 53-50 at 8:10 of the third quarter. He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
Faced with their largest deficit of the half (13 points), the Suns closed the second quarter on a 9-0 run to pull to within 46-42 at the half. Bledsoe had five points, including a three-pointer in the final 2:12.
The Suns forced the league's fourth-best team (13.6) at taking care of the ball into 10 first half turnovers or one more than Memphis had committed in the entire game of their last meeting.
The Suns' 14 points (6-of-18 FG, including 1-of-8 from three-point range) in the game's first 12 minutes was one point shy of a first-quarter season low.
The Suns missed six straight shots, going four minutes between scores to see a three-point lead become a three-point deficit in the third quarter.
Randolph scored 11 points, including nine straight at one point, during a 17-5 run to open up a 24-12 lead, Memphis' largest of the first quarter.
Miller hit three three-pointers and scored 13 of Memphis' 15 points in the first 5:57 of the second quarter. He was 5-of-6, including 3-of-4 from deep in 10 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
The back-and-forth affair featured 15 lead changes in the fourth quarter and 22 for the game, which marks the most for any Suns game all season (previous high of 20 lead changes both at Oklahoma City on Nov. 3 and at New Orleans on April 9).
HE SAID IT
"It is really tough to say something positive right now," Dragic said. "Nobody expected us to play so good. We built some good chemistry with this team. A lot of new faces, a lot of young guys, new coaching staff, new GM, so I think we're headed in the right direction. When you're so close to the playoffs, you always want some little bit more. I was hoping we would make playoffs and try to upset somebody over there. Overall it was great year, fun year for us. It's always tough when you finish the season."
The Suns become the fifth team in NBA history to win at least 47 games and not make the playoffs. It's the third time the Suns have experienced such a fate, joining the teams in 1971-72 (49 wins) and 1970-71 (48 wins) -- in those years only eight teams made the postseason.
The Suns had their second straight and fourth overall sellout crowd of the season. The game outdrew the contest across the street at Chase Field: 18,422 to 18,099.
For the second consecutive season, P.J. Tucker won the Dan Majerle Hustle Award. He joins Grant Hill (2008, 2011) as the only two-time winners of the award.
The Suns close out the regular season with a trip to Sacramento to play the Kings on Wednesday, April 16. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns look for their second straight victory over the Kings after losing the first two meetings on a home-and-home, back-to-back set on Nov. 19-20. In the most recent matchup, Goran Dragic, 29 points, and Eric Bledsoe, a then career-high 28 points, led the Suns to a 116-107 win on Dec. 13 at US Airways Center.
Craig Grialou, Reporter
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