The first half of the Phoenix Suns game against the Memphis Grizzlies was going well, as the Suns attempted to hand the Grizzlies their first loss of the season. However, something in the third quarter changed the momentum, and the Grizzlies took that momentum all the way to a 102-91 victory over the Suns. The Grizzlies won all four meetings between the two teams last season, and seem to have the right formula to defeat the Suns up-tempo game. That formula includes hard-nosed defense, slowing the game down making it a half-court game, and better overall execution.
The first quarter saw the Suns getting off to a fast start, and Eric Bledsoe scoring 14 points of 5 of 5 shooting. Bledsoe ended the game leading the Suns with a season high 23 points as well as 4 assists. The Suns as a team shot 78.6 percent in the quarter, and out-rebounded the Grizzlies 8 to 4, but could only generate a one point lead, 27-26.
The Suns went on a 16-6 run to start the second period, behind 9 points scored off the bench by Gerald Green. After that, the Suns offense became sluggish, there was limited ball movement, and the Grizzlies started executing their half-court game. The Grizzlies were able to reverse a 43-32 deficit with 5:41 to go in the half, into a 66-65 lead with 5:21 to go in the third period, and never looked back. During that span, the Suns committed 9 turnovers, and the Grizzlies took advantage. Courtney lee and Mike Conley combined to score 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, including making 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the third quarter. Conley finished as the high scorer, with 24 points, and adding 11 assists. Lee finished the game right behind Conley with 22 points.
Although the Suns shot just 35.3 percent in the third quarter, and were held to just 19 points, they were still in the game, trailing 76-71 heading into the fourth quarter. The Suns continued to struggle, committing 3 turnovers in just over two minutes, as the Grizzlies took advantage and went on an 11-2 run. In a little over four minutes, the Grizzlies took a 90-77 lead, with Marc Gasol scoring 7 of the 11 to put the game away. Gasol finished with 18 points and 6 assists.
“They’ve got guys at all the positions. They’re just a powerful team and they get you in their half-court game and make you grind it out. We got careless with the ball, had a lot of turnovers, and they start the third quarter with a bunch of layups and we didn’t contest layups. Games aren’t always won or lost at the end of the game. I felt that one was lost in the third quarter.” – Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek after the loss to the Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies are now 5-0, their best start in franchise history. After outscoring the Grizzlies 11-3 in fast break points through the first half, the Suns only scored 4 total fast break points after the break. The Suns also were held to just 39 second half points shooting 37.1 percent from the field. For a guard happy team, the Suns had just 13 assists for the game, and committed a total of 21 turnovers, with Bledsoe committing 9. After the game Bledsoe said, “I don’t think we did a good job of executing. They did a great job of packing it in the paint.” Regarding the second half letdown, Bledsoe added, “We came out playing one-on-one basketball. That’s not our game. We’re a transition team. We’ve got to get stops and we didn’t get stops. They were the better team.” The Grizzlies had 25 assists, shot 50.0 percent from the field, including 9 of 17 (52.9%) from three, and held the Suns to 91 total points.