Slumping Grizzlies visit Suns
PHOENIX — It seems safe to say that the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies will be tired and grumpy when they meet in Phoenix on Thursday.
Both were time-zoned out of an hour of sleep after playing on the West Coast late Wednesday night, and neither may have gotten much rest regardless.
Phoenix (11-22) never led in suffering a 108-95 loss to the Clippers, its first setback on a quick three-game road trip, while Memphis (9-22) continued to struggle to score in a 97-84 loss at Golden State.
TJ Warren had 22 points for the Suns, but they did not get same kind the bench contribution against the Clippers that helped them overcome double-digit deficits in victories over Minnesota and Dallas on the first two games of the trip. They never were closer than within 10 points in the second half.
The Suns reserve group includes a former first-round draft pick, center Alex Len, former G-League point guard Isaiah Canaan and former European player Mike James. Len had 46 rebounds on the trip.
Canaan, acquired last week using the injury hardship exception, has scored in double figures in all three games he has played after getting 10 points in 22 minutes again the Clippers, although he was only 2-of-12 from the field.
Canaan had 15 points in a 108-106 victory over Minnesota on Saturday, when he made three free throws with six seconds remaining for the final points of the game. He had 17 points in a 97-91 victory at Dallas on Monday. The bench scored 69 points against Minnesota and 55 against Dallas, including 20 of 29 in the fourth quarter.
Canaan has played so well that Suns interim coach Jay Triano said he would like to pair him with leading scorer Devin Booker when Booker returns. Booker has been out since Dec. 5 with a left adductor strain, and the Suns are targeting the end of the month for his return.
“They’ll be on the floor together I think for large parts of games,” Triano told the Arizona Republic. “Isaiah is a guy who can create but also a willing passer. I just want to see what they do together.”
Memphis is 2-18 without point guard Michael Conley, who has been out for five weeks with soreness in an Achilles tendon, a stretch that recently cost coach David Fizdale his job. Conley is expected to miss at least two more weeks.
The Grizzlies are averaging 86.4 points in their last five and have been held below 100 points in every game in that stretch. It took them overtime to get to 101 points in the game before the current streak started.
“We have to play with a thrust,” interim coach B.J. Bickerstaff told the Memphis Commercial Appeal regarding the Grizzlies’ recent slow starts in each half.
“In those quarters, we have not played with a thrust, whether it’s attacking the basket, running early or cutting hard. We get stuck. That’s when teams lock in on us. We’re harder to guard when there’s movement, pace and thrust. That’s what we’ve got to do more of.”
Center Marc Gasol and guard Tyreke Evans are the only double-figure scorers in Conley’s absence, and the Grizzlies are shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 25th in the league. They shot 33 percent against a Warriors team that played without Draymond Green and Steph Curry on Wednesday.
“The season’s not going the way we all wanted early on, obviously,” Gasol told a group of reporters two days ago. “It’s not an easy situation for anybody.”
Memphis forward Chandler Parsons was held out of the Golden State game but is expected to play in Phoenix. After a third knee surgery, he is on a strict recovery program that prohibits him from playing back-to-back games.
In a scheduling quirk, the Suns and Grizzlies will play here twice in six days. Memphis returns home to play the Clippers on Saturday before embarking on a five-game road trip that begins in Phoenix next Tuesday.