Grizzlies seek warmer shooting performance versus Suns
PHOENIX — In a bizarre scheduling quirk, Memphis will begin its current road trip Tuesday at the point its previous trip ended — in Phoenix.
The weather will be again hospitable. The Grizzlies can only hope the rematch goes better.
Memphis missed its final 10 field-goal attempts in a 97-95 loss to the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday, failing to score in the final 4:10. Suns guard Troy Daniels beat his former team on a 3-pointer with 17.6 seconds remaining.
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The Grizzles (10-23) got some long-awaited relief Saturday, when they broke a three-game losing streak with a 115-112 victory over Los Angeles Clippers in a one-game homestand in Memphis.
The Suns (12-23) expect to look more like themselves soon, too, perhaps as early as Thursday, as Devin Booker is expected to return after missing three weeks with a strained left adductor muscle.
Phoenix is 3-6 without its star guard, who averages a team-best 24.3 points.
The Grizzlies have won only three of their last 22 games without point guard Michael Conley, a streak that cost coach David Fizdale his job.
“We need this,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol told reporters after beating the Clippers. “We need wins, and we need home wins and something to build on. Even though I didn’t play great, it was worth it because we won.”
Gasol had 17 points and a season-high 15 rebounds against the Clippers and guard Tyreke Evans had 30 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Evans corralled a bad pass on the Clippers’ last possession to secure the victory.
“You take the win any way that you can,” Memphis interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters.
Gasol had 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots against the Suns the last time they met, and Evans had 23 points, but missed a well-defended 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Suns forward TJ Warren scored 27 points against the Grizzlies last week, and had 24 against Minnesota on Saturday. Warren has been the focal point of the offense in Booker’s absence, averaging 21 points in his absence.
Daniels had 18 points against Minnesota on six 3-pointers. He has three games with six or more 3s off the bench this season, the second-most in the NBA behind Miami’s Wayne Ellington (five).
Daniels has made at least three 3-pointers in six of his last seven games, and his contributions have helped a bench group that has produced well in Booker’s absence. The bench had 51 points against the Timberwolves, continuing a recent trend.
On the other hand, Warren and rookie Josh Jackson are the only starters to average in double figures in the last five games, and Jackson will return to the bench when Booker is activated.
With Booker poised to return, the Suns released backup point guard Mike James before Saturday’s game. James was beaten out by recent signee Isaiah Canaan, who had 15 points and a career-high nine assists against Minnesota. Canaan, 6-foot-1, has scored in double figures in his first five games with the Suns and is averaging 13.4 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
“He does bring energy,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “He pushes the pace a little bit, he’s not afraid to go in, he’s strong enough to absorb contact and still make a play. To his advantage, the players that he’s on the floor with give him space. Our ability to shoot the ball with that second unit creates a lot more space than we have in the first unit, so he’s able to play with those guys who are creating space for him.”