Suns look to stay hot as Gasol-less Grizzlies visit
Over the last six weeks, the Phoenix Suns haven’t lost many games, while the Memphis Grizzlies have had a hard time earning victories without injured center Marc Gasol.
One of Phoenix’s defeats in that span, though, came in Memphis, and the Suns will look to avenge that loss when they host the Grizzlies on Thursday night.
Phoenix (19-11) has won 14 of 19 since Nov. 22, going 7-2 on its own court and 7-3 on the road. The losses away from home over that span were by an average of 21.0 points, including 110-91 to Memphis (13-17) on Dec. 3.
That victory was one of only six in 18 games for the Grizzlies since Nov. 22, when Gasol suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee during a 102-86 loss to San Antonio.
The Grizzlies, swept by the Spurs in last season’s Western Conference finals, don’t know when the 7-footer will be back in the lineup. They didn’t need him last month against Phoenix as seven players scored in double figures to help Memphis win for the fourth time in six meetings.
The Suns have won 10 of 12 since that loss and are coming off an impressive road victory over the Pacific Division rival Clippers on Monday. Goran Dragic had 26 points, eight assists and a career-high-tying five steals while reserve Gerald Green scored 21 in a 107-88 rout.
Phoenix continued its up-tempo style under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek with 18 fast-break points. The Suns lead the NBA with 19.1 fast-break points per contest.
"This is our game. We try to play a fast, up-tempo game, and I think things are going to be much better if you play like that," Dragic said. "Playing a half-court game is really tough for us, so we have to push the ball and try to get everybody involved. And when we get into the open court, we have all those open shooters."
Phoenix had a season-best 26 assists and converted 20 turnovers into 20 points.
"I think we did a good job of being really unselfish and looking for each other," forward Channing Frye said. "We had 26 assists, so we did a better job of pushing the pace and executing. It’s not like we’re shooting off the wall, but guys are taking the right shots most of the time.
"Hopefully we can remember how hard we played tonight and can continue that into the new year so we can stay in that groove we’re in."
The Grizzlies would like to get in a groove after losing 95-91 at home to Chicago on Monday in their final game of 2013.
Point guard Mike Conley finished with 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds and six steals for Memphis, which committed a season-high 21 turnovers.
"It was awful," coach Dave Joerger said. "We threw the ball all over the place. We lacked focus. We lacked screening and cutting. We were loose with the ball."