Suns Strokes: Sluggish start plagues Phoenix in loss to Randolph, Grizzlies
PHOENIX — If avenging an abysmal 110-91 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season was on the list of organizational resolutions for the new year, the Phoenix Suns will have to wait a little while longer to put a check mark in that box.
In a seesaw game filled with 11 lead changes, the Grizzlies made the most important run of the night — a 13-2 spurt to open the fourth quarter — en route to 99-91 road victory over the Suns at US Airways Center Thursday night.
Memphis built a 14-point third quarter lead that fell by the wayside after an 18-0 run by Phoenix midway through the frame, but the presence of Zach Randolph (20 points and 13 rebounds), who missed the teams’ first meeting back on Dec. 3, former Arizona standout Jerryd Bayless’ late-game heroics (scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter) and a double-double (16 points and 11 rebounds) off the bench from Ed Davis propelled the Grizzlies to a second consecutive win over the Suns this season.
“Their bench killed us again,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “These guys — if they don’t think that Ed Davis, Bayless and these guys are good players, they’re crazy. They came in there and beat us both times.”
Playing to the crowd on his Bobblehead Night, Dragic recorded his second consecutive 25-point-plus performance, going off for a career-high 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field. Dragic scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, including 15 during the Suns’ 16-point swing in the third quarter. The Slovenian has reached the 30-point mark four times in 2013-14.
In the third quarter, Phoenix held Memphis to 16 points — the fewest any opponent has scored in the first 12 minutes coming out of the locker room in 2013-14 — thanks in large part to a brief film session at halftime.
“We watched the video [of the first half] and saw nine plays of horrible defense,” said Hornacek. “We just let them pass the ball around and do whatever they wanted to do. In the second half, especially that third quarter, they put pressure on them. I don’t know what the run was, but we got back in the game and took the lead.”
The Suns certainly didn’t begin the opening half of basketball in terribly impressive fashion, as they struggled to adapt to the physical, half-court style of play Dave Joerger and the Grizzlies have grown accustomed to utilizing.
Part of that could be attributed to the absence of guard Eric Bledsoe, who missed his seventh game of the season after suffering a right knee sprain in Monday night’s 107-88 win in Los Angeles.
However, Bledsoe’s impact probably wouldn’t have made the difference in the rebounding battle — one the Grizzlies held a decisive advantage in (59-40).
“[Bledsoe not playing] shouldn’t matter, because it gives guys opportunities,” said Hornacek. “Eric wanted to go. He hurt his knee the other night. The doctor looked at him and said he has swelling in there and shouldn’t play. You just have to move on that way. Would it have helped? Maybe.”
In the loss, the Suns shot a woeful 8-of-30 from three-point range, including a 1-for-7 performance from swingman Gerald Green.
Marcus Morris, who went 0-for-5 on the night, has not hit a shot since Phoenix’s 115-101 win over Philadelphia back on Dec. 28.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Suns lost for the first time this season when attempting more free throws than their opponent. In the eight-point loss, Phoenix had 16 attempts from the charity stripe compared to Memphis’ 14.
HE SAID IT
“We just have to play more physical. We didn’t have the sense of urgency in the first half. Memphis won all the 50-50 balls, and I think they outrebounded us by a whole lot. This is a tough game for us. We wanted to start the new year off with a good start, but we didn’t get the job done tonight.” – Gerald Green on the Suns’ 99-91 home loss.
HE SAID IT PART II
“Some guy on the sideline said that I disgraced St. Mary’s (High School in Phoenix). That kind of hurt my feelings. That kind of got me going a little bit.” – Hometown product Jerryd Bayless on his 11-point fourth quarter
– Until Bledsoe’s late scratch Thursday, the Suns had gone 13 straight games with the same straight lineup.
– With Bledsoe reduced to the sidelines, Ish Smith played a season-high tying 20 minutes. The third-year guard finished with three points, two assists and six rebounds.
– The contest took a rather chippy turn in the fourth quarter, as four technical fouls were assessed to Ed Davis, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker and Zach Randolph in a span of 1:21.
“Sometimes guys get goofy and try to do things to get you out of your game,” said Hornacek. “That’s really when you have to get tougher. Not fake tough, but tougher in terms of your execution, your ball-handling and making sure you’re getting a good shot.”
– The Grizzlies have won two in a row over the Suns for the first time since 2005.
– Memphis’ 59 rebounds were the most by a Phoenix opponent in 2013-14, and most since New York grabbed 59 back on Nov. 7, 2011.
The Suns (19-12) conclude their two-game home stand with non-conference showdown Saturday night against the league’s worst team, the Milwaukee Bucks (7-25). Milwaukee put an end to a 24-game road losing streak in Phoenix last season with a 98-94 win at US Airways Center that proved to be the final game in Alvin Gentry’s tenure with the organization. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.