Grizzlies Preview: Memphis visits Phoenix


Apr 14, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) fouls Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) during the second half at US Airways Center. The Grizzlies won 97-91. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating New Orleans on Monday, the Memphis Grizzlies will be visiting the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. Memphis is looking to extend a franchise-best beginning to their 2014-15 season as they prepare to tangle in the Southwest, with both teams wanting to pick up a key win.

Phoenix is a team that is traditionally known as a high-scoring team. This season’s Suns squad may even be the fastest team they have had in several years. They are very young and will challenge the Grizzlies because of their speed and athletic ability. The Grizzlies play a slower game than Phoenix, but do have some glaring advantages over Phoenix that will need to be utilized to the fullest in order to knock off the Suns on Wednesday night.

In the last matchup between these two teams, which dates back to April of last season, the Grizzlies defeated the Suns in a close victory that was critical in determining the final playoff positions. Both teams could be connected in a very similar situation again once April rolls around.

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  • Most importantly to note in terms of recent news is that the Grizzlies added a point guard today, Kalin Lucas, whom they had on their roster in training camp and preseason, as insurance for Mike Conley’s tender ankle since Nick Calathes is still serving his league suspension. Although Conley is not expected to miss any time, there is a stopgap replacement on hand, shall the Grizz need it. Here is a breakdown of some insight into this Western Conference matchup.

    Things to Watch

    • Frontcourt stability
    • Lock down on Suns’ backcourt
    • Foul trouble
    • Mike Conley’s all-around play
    • Fatigue

    Determining Factors

    1. Guard play. It will be a tough task to defend Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas, but it can be done with the length and size of the Memphis Grizzlies. The backcourt needs to be ready to Grit ‘N’ Grind versus Phoenix. Tony Allen and Mike Conley are facing a challenge that they will gladly accept on both ends of the court.
    2. Bench scoring. Phoenix’s leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas, leads the team in scoring, yet he is their backup point guard. He can light up the scoreboard in an instant, and Memphis needs to not let his small size fool them. The Suns will attempt to push the tempo, so the Grizz will need to use their bench depth to prevent having fatigued starters by the fourth quarter.
    3. Post production. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol should undoubtedly overpower the Suns’ frontcourt, featuring Miles Plumlee and the Morris twins. Heading into the game, this area favors the Grizzlies the most.
    4. DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE. The Phoenix Suns will prevail if top-notch defense is not played for a full 48 minutes by Memphis. Phoenix is an exceptional fast break team and they have many outstanding shooters throughout their roster. Even their big men, such as Marcus Morris and Anthony Tolliver, can check into the game and hit back-to-back three-pointers in a flash. The Suns will attempt a high volume of shot attempts, so they need to be contested.
    5. Emergence of an unexpected contributor. Memphis will likely need at least one of their bench players to have a breakout game. It will be difficult to contain all of Phoenix’s guards and shooters, and while the Grizzly frontcourt should encounter a clear advantage, someone other than Mike Conley will need to step up to help keep the Bluff City team toe-to-toe with the Suns’ backcourt.
    6. Shooting woes must stop. Simply put, the Grizzlies need to start increasing their shooting percentages. This area should improve once the rust wears off from the offseason and players regain their mid-season form.

    Key Game Notes

    • The Suns will be playing the second game of a back-to-back as they play the Lakers in Los Angeles tonight (Tuesday).
    • The Grizzlies are statistically playing the best defense in the NBA right now, allowing opponents to score just 85.0 PPG.
    • Zach Randolph has logged a double-double in all four games this season.
    • Marc Gasol is averaging a team-best 22.5 PPG for the Grizzlies.

    Notable Injuries

    The Grizzlies’ Courtney Lee (mild concussion) has passed the NBA’s series of concussion tests and is cleared to play, barring any setbacks, so he is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday night. The Phoenix Suns report just one injury at this time– rookie T.J. Warren, out with a fractured thumb.

    Personal Prediction

    While I believe this is a very winnable game for the Grizz, they definitely need to step up the defensive initiative against the Phoenix Suns. The Suns will force Memphis to be at the top of their game if the Grizzlies want to come out of Arizona with another mark placed in their win column. I will take the Grizzlies by a five-point margin of victory in this pairing.

    Game Time

    This game featuring the Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns tips off at 8:00 P.M. CST and can be found on television around the Memphis area on Sportsouth or radio on WMFS. The game will be played at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona.