Coming off a great road trip to Atlanta where they handed the Hawks their first loss of the season, the Suns got beat by the Grizzlies 109-99 Monday night in Memphis. The team did not play poorly, but they simply did not make enough plays to win on either end of the court.
The Suns turned it over 22 times versus 14 for Memphis. With all due respect to the Grizzlies’ defensive effort, many of those turnovers were careless, unforced errors. Certainly Memphis deserves some credit for forcing the turnovers (ie Mike Conley had 4 steals), but to say Memphis played intense defense for 48 minutes and forced the Suns into 22 turnovers would be to greatly overstate it.
Aside from the turnovers, the offense looked relatively fine. The team shot 47.5% from the floor, so they got good looks. The game boiled down to taking care of the ball to maximize each possession.
Grant Hill led the Suns with 19 points and 12 boards, but Coach Alvin Gentry undoubtedly doesn’t expect that type of production from him every night. His fellow frontcourt mates of Hedo Turkoglu and Robin Lopez only had 10 points (8 from Turkoglu) and 3 points combined.
Hakim Warrick again looked sharp off the bench, and actually led the team in minutes played with 35. Perhaps more telling about his production than his minutes is the number of free throws he took, 10. With his willingness and ability to attack the rim aggressively, he should continue to put up nice numbers and will certainly continue to benefit from playing with a point guard the caliber of Steve Nash.
Whether he comes off the bench or begins to start in the place of Turkoglu at the 4 as some would suggest, Warrick will put up numbers. The problem the Suns will face all season is being dominated inside regardless of who starts at power forward if they don’t get improved play from Robin Lopez. So far this season, he has shown very little of the ability he showed at the end of last season after coming back from the back injury.
The Suns have enough offensive fire power to overcome their current “doughnut” team make up, but they will not be able to just run and outscore every team. This was especially evident Monday when at one point during the third quarter Hedo Turkoglu had to guard Marc Gasol. While he’s not as gifted a passer as his brother Pau, he consistently countered the Suns’ double team with a great pass to a teammate creating an open look. Even if he didn’t get the assist himself, his passing out of the Suns’ necessary double team was the turning point in the game in the the 3rd quarter, where the Grizzlies outscored Phoenix 33-23.
Friday the Kings come to town. Everyone knows about rising star Tyreke Evans’ ability, but how the Suns deal with starter Samuel Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins off the bench might have more of an impact on the game than anything either backcourt does. After Zach Randolph’s 20-20 game Monday night, hopefully the Suns can have a strong outing from whomever is at the 4 and 5 positions.
Perhaps they might even play some 2-3 zone like they did last year in the playoffs; regardless of what defense they play, they will have to improve how they play inside to get a win.