Suns Strokes: Suns beat Grizzlies, Watson picks up first win
After 34 days, a coaching change and trade of a malcontent, the Phoenix Suns won an NBA game.
Alex Len and P.J. Tucker each recorded double-doubles with Tucker flirting with a triple-double in a 111-106 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in front of a Saturday night crowd of 17,101 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Len scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, both game highs, while Tucker had 17 points, 11 boards and seven assists to help the Suns (15-44) snap a season-long 13-game losing streak and hand Earl Watson his first victory as interim head coach.
All total, the Suns placed four players in double figures, including Mirza Teletovic with 18 points off the bench, extending his career-long streak of scoring 10 or more to nine games.
Devin Booker added 15, Ronnie Price and Archie Goodwin each chipped in 12.
Tyson Chandler finished with seven and had 12 rebounds.
It was a near wire-to-wire victory for the Suns, who led by as many as 12 points.
Only twice did the Suns trail—for a total of 55 seconds—and never by more than a single point.
The Suns, who ended a franchise-high eight-game home losing streak, snapped an eight-game slide against the Grizzlies—Memphis’ longest winning streak in series history—beating the visitors on the boards, 56-34, points in the paint, 42-38, and second chance points, 26-12.
Mike Conley and Zack Randolph led the Grizzlies (34-24) with 19 points apiece.
With the shot clock winding down, Booker launched a 28-foot 3-pointer. It hit nothing but net to give the Suns a five-point lead, 15-10, at 3:04 of the first quarter. Booker made his second 3 of the period with 1.9 remaining for a 9-4 Suns close and 25-18 advantage. Booker finished the quarter with a game-high 10 points on four-of-six shooting.
Half of the Suns 16 points in a 16-7 second-quarter run — to put the Suns up 47-39 at 3:16 matching their largest first-half lead — were scored by Jon Leuer, who twice hit 3s and added a pair of free throws. He shared team-high scoring honors in the period with Goodwin, who did most of his damage at the foul line, making all four of his attempts.
Scoreless in the first half, Price exploded for 11 third-quarter points hitting three 3-pointers; the first two setup by Tucker assists, who led the team with four in the period. Price added a pair of free throws at 1:57, which put the Suns up, 84-72, matching their largest lead of the game. Aside from Price, Len had nine points and Tucker eight.
Of Len’s 16 rebounds, which were the second-most of his career, seven came in the fourth quarter, which saw him outrebound the Grizzlies on the offensive glass, three to two. He was also the Suns’ high point man in the period with eight points on three-of-five shooting plus a pair of free throws. Len finished eight-of-12 from the foul line.
Despite a first-quarter shooting percentage of 27.3 (6-of-22), the Grizzlies were able to stay within striking distance thanks to eight Suns turnovers. Price committed three, while Booker and Chandler each had two and Len one. Memphis scored seven points off the Suns mistakes. The Suns began the day ranked 29th, averaging 17 turnovers a game.
Four straight points by Matt Barnes and the Grizzlies took a 32-31 lead at 7:11 of the second quarter. It was their first advantage since 3-2 less than two minutes into the game. Barnes, the one-time Suns player, would later add a 24-foot 3-pointer and finish with a team-best seven points in the period on two-of-three shooting and a pair of free throws.
When starter Brandan Wright left with a right knee injury 55 seconds into the third quarter, Randolph slid over to the center spot and manhandled the Suns inside the paint. He scored nine straight points and 11 of the Grizzlies 13 points over a near four-minute stretch. Randoph made four-of-five field goals after missing six of seven in the first half.
All the way to the end the Grizzlies fought, no one more so than Conley. He scored 10 of his team’s final 13 points with a 3-pointer, lay-up and five free throws, three of which he made after being fouled on a 3-point attempt by Teletovic. Conley’s 10-point fourth-quarter moved him past Rudy Gay for second place in franchise history in points with 8,569.
STAT OF THE GAME
56-34: The Suns’ +22 rebound margin was the highest this season and highest since being +25 (65-40) in a win at Denver on Feb. 25, 2015
HE SAID IT, part 1
“We’re staying within the process. It’s just one win. It’s not a celebration, it’s not a championship, it’s not a major leap in the right direction. It’s one step forward,” Watson said. “What I’m more impressed with is this: we probably played the most physical, aggressive team in the NBA. They hit us, they elbowed us. What did we do? We hit them back, we elbowed them, and it became a brawl.”
HE SAID IT, part 2
“Good game as far as seeing some young talent,” Grizzlies head coach David Joerger said. “Alex Len played terrific, Devin Booker showed why he was a top-13 pick. You have that kind of talent, those are guys you can really develop and they did a great job. They were ready to play, I thought they played with a lot more focus than we did.”
Booker fouled out with 3:51 remaining, picking up three fouls in less than three minutes; it was his team-high fifth disqualification of the season.
Kris Humphries was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the first time since being acquired, furthering speculation of buyout talks with the team.
Suns started their 18th different lineup with Price, Booker, Tucker, Len and Chandler; the twin tower combination started for the sixth time.
Suns played nine home games in the year’s shortest month for just the third time in franchise history, also doing so in 1994-95 and 2013-14.
Watson played in 240 games with Memphis over three seasons from 2002-05, including the Grizzlies’ first-ever playoff team in 2003-04.
After spending nearly all of February at home, the Suns will play eight of their next 10 games on the road, starting with a four-game trip that opens in Charlotte on Tuesday, March 1. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns have won seven of the last eight meetings, including the most recent matchup.
On Jan. 6 in Phoenix, the Suns snapped a nine-game losing streak by using an outstanding 3-point shooting performance to beat the Hornets, 111-102. The Suns made a season-high 19 3s, tied for the fourth-most in a game in team history, on just 33 attempts as six different players made multiple shots from beyond the arc.
Teletovic, who hit five 3s, scored a team-high 19 points off the bench.
The upcoming road trip also includes visits to Miami, Orlando and Memphis.