EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns find their form, make it 7 wins in a row with beatdown of Grizzlies

Nov 12, 2021, 9:14 PM

PHOENIX — It’s a ruthless efficiency the Phoenix Suns play with when they’re rolling. No other group will outwork them, all while they are precise in their execution on both ends.

It makes them a really, really great team. We hadn’t seen that team this season, however, up until Friday’s 119-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The seventh straight win for Phoenix was a beatdown, the clicking into place at full speed type of outing we had been waiting on.

The starting backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker was buzzing with a ferocious mindset from the jump. They were both getting in the lane and downhill offensively in the first quarter against the NBA’s worst defense statistically to start the year. That recipe brewed up some trouble for Memphis in a hurry, a 13-point Phoenix lead through the opening 12 minutes.

Everyone on the Suns (8-3) was moving defensively and covering for each other. Outside of Ja Morant’s nearly unguardable two-man game, the Grizzlies (6-6) had little to no success in the first half, being held to 23 and 20 points in the first two quarters, respectively. A 21-point third quarter made it three straight complete defensive efforts for Phoenix, a level of focus head coach Monty Williams saw in shootaround.

“I thought the intensity was at a really good place … I just thought we had good carryover from this morning and it’s a good way to start the trip,” he said.

Williams showed clips at halftime to his team of what was going well in the Suns’ shift defense, a look where they will make multiple efforts to congest driving lanes and then recover to shooters. Those are the types of signature team defense possessions we saw last year in scrambling situations, and they are popping up more frequently in the last few games.

“Our defense is gonna get better and better the more we play like that,” Williams said.

“I think our defense [was] very, very, very good tonight,” forward Jae Crowder said, a guy who is not one to exaggerate when assessing defense. “It was no question that we were able to get out to a big lead from our defense.”

In the second quarter, Paul came back in and punished a defense he has in the past that lets him get to his spot. He was 4-for-4 from the field, with all four shots coming from nearly an identical spot.

“They were sort of playing in a drop so it let me get to my spots, just trying to come out aggressive,” Paul said.

The 3-ball was falling for the Suns too, at an 8-of-17 clip in the first half.

All of those factors were even more pronounced in the third quarter, where the Suns’ 19-point advantage ballooned as high as 38, effectively killing off the game. That’s an added bonus for a team that plays three games in four days on a tough travel schedule going from Phoenix to Memphis, Houston and then Minnesota.

That wasn’t quite the outcome, as once the lead hit 38, the Suns had five turnovers in the last 3:33 of the quarter. That sloppiness carried over to the beginning section of the fourth quarter, where Williams wasn’t going to mess around and still had Paul and Mikal Bridges in even though it was a 28-point game. Considering how the team nearly fumbled away a huge fourth quarter in Sacramento earlier in the week when the starters came in midway through the quarter, that made sense.

The Grizzlies got it down to 23 points with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. still on the floor but Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins thought better of chasing a comeback with a matchup in New Orleans the following night. He checked out his young duo with 8:17 left, and there was enough stability for the Suns at 5:21 remaining up 24 for Williams to get his key players back on the bench.

Paul recorded 15 points, four rebounds, 12 assists and five steals while Booker added 17 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Bridges (3-of-3) and Crowder (5-for-8) had it going from deep, contributing to a season-best 18-for-37 (48.6%) shooting performance for the Suns at three-point range. That’s an expected development for Crowder in particular, as he was shooting just 30.2% from distance through 10 games. Throughout his career, Crowder has always been consistently streaky, meaning he’s going to get hot eventually if he’s been cold for too long, and vice versa.

All 10 Suns players who played more than five minutes scored at least eight points, with some nice bounce-back efforts off the bench for Cam Johnson (12 points) and Abdel Nader (10) included in that. No one reached 30 minutes.

Deandre Ayton (right foot contusion) missed his fourth straight game, but was listed as doubtful on the injury report, a notable upgrade from his “out” designation that indicates he’s making legitimate progress toward returning.

Morant was great with 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two steals but Jackson’s 19 points made the pair the only Grizzlies to reach double figures.

Penguin Air

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Empire of the Suns

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver and wife Penny Sanders attend Game Two of the 2021 WNB...
Kellan Olson

Robert Sarver’s exit allows Phoenix Suns, others to move forward

The departure of Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver will let the franchise move into the future without doubt surrounding who represents it.
4 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of Game One of the Western Confere...
Kevin Zimmerman

It would appear Devin Booker is a top-10 player in ESPN’s NBArank

Mikal Bridges moved up, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton fell and Devin Booker appears to be in the top-10 of ESPN's annual NBArank.
4 days ago
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals b...
Kevin Zimmerman

What NBA’s Adam Silver answered about investigation of Suns owner Robert Sarver

NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday met with team owners and then took questions from reporters about the Robert Sarver investigation.
10 days ago
General manager James Jones of the Phoenix Suns looks on after the game against the Miami Heat at F...
Arizona Sports

Suns could reset in 2023-24 as NBA expects salary cap jump

The NBA told its teams on Friday that it still expects to see a significant jump in the salary cap and tax level in the 2023-24 season.
13 days ago
Michal Michalak (POL),Dario Saric (CRO) during the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-qualifiers match betwee...
Kellan Olson

Dario Saric’s team-friendly game for Suns returns with Croatia in FIBA

Phoenix Suns center Dario Saric will be playing some big-time basketball in September for Croatia in FIBA EuroBasket 2022.
25 days ago
Chris Paul #3 and head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talk during the second half of Game...
Kellan Olson

Suns shouldn’t be content with continuity after failed Kevin Durant pursuit

After the Nets announced they are running it back with Kevin Durant, will the Suns choose to do the same with their group?
1 month ago
Suns find their form, make it 7 wins in a row with beatdown of Grizzlies