The Phoenix Suns go for a hat trick Monday night when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game of a road back-to-back.
Coming off a 113-102 loss at the Houston Rockets on Sunday afternoon, the Suns will attempt to duplicate 97-95 and 99-97 home wins over the Grizzlies in their third of four meetings this season.
Phoenix’s defeat Sunday gave it seven losses in its last eight games.
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Memphis will take the court Monday in better form, having won four of seven. But it will be playing for the first time since news that star guard Mike Conley, out since November with an Achilles injury, formally has been shut down for the rest of the season.
The news on Conley was made public Saturday when Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace e-mailed his club’s season ticket-holders.
“Mike has been extremely diligent as we pursued multiple different approaches to alleviate the pain before deciding surgery was the best solution,” Wallace wrote.
Surgery has been scheduled on what Wallace labeled as a “small bone protrusion” in Conley’s left heel.
Considered one of the top defensive point guards in the league, Conley led the Grizzlies to a 7-6 start, playing in 12 of those games and averaging 17.4 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Memphis has gone 10-25 since then.
Conley was not active when the Grizzlies visited Phoenix twice in a six-day stretch in December.
To add insult to injury, the Grizzlies have lost two other key players in the past week, including Tyreke Evans, who became the team’s leading scorer after being promoted to Conley’s starting spot.
Evans has missed the last two games with an illness, while forward JaMychal Green has been out the last three games with an ankle injury.
The current situation for the Suns is less than stellar as well. Even the club’s competitive effort at Houston worked against it, with star Devin Booker being pressed into 41 minutes of action.
He made good use of the time, recording a 31-point, 10-assist double-double.
Booker started the game at point guard, a position change Phoenix coach Jay Triano explained is being looked at as a long-term possibility.
“We want to try to see if we can play him on the ball and have him still be a scorer,” Triano said. “He’s an unselfish player who’s willing to make plays. But we need him to be aggressive and score as well.”
Booker entered play Sunday as one of just 17 players in the league averaging at least 20 points and four assists a game.
The 21-year-old missed the first game against Memphis this season, then contributed 32 points and six assists to the victory in the rematch.
He fouled out of that game and was a spectator when Tyson Chandler jammed home a lob from Dragan Bender on a scripted out-of-bounds play with 0.4 of a second remaining to give Phoenix the two-point win.
Memphis’ Evans totaled 48 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in the first two meetings with the Suns.