Grizzlies, Roll Phoenix Without Five Key Players

When the 2021-2022 season began not too many experts or analysts picked the Memphis Grizzlies to represent the Western Conference in the Finals in June, but as on Friday night they won’t surprise anybody if they do. They came into their home game against the team with the best overall record in the league in the Phoenix Suns (62-15) as underdogs, and that didn’t matter. 

Missing four of their five starters in Ja Morant (Knee), Desmond Bane (Left Ankle Soreness), Steven Adams (Left Calf), and Jaren Jackson Jr. (Right Thigh) as well as a key backup in Tyus Jones (Left Hand) nobody would of looked at them any different if they were blown out by Phoenix, but this Grizzlies team showed why they have the second best record out West and why they don’t fear any team they may face come playoffs. 

They are now 20-2 without their superstar Morant and have won 10 straight.

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

They defeated the Suns 122-114 in a collective effort despite losing their head coach Taylor Jenkins with four minutes remaining in the second quarter (ejection).  

Seven players scored in double-figures for Memphis. Dillion Brooks, the only starter for Memphis to play, led the way with 30 points and a team-high seven assist. Brooks’ emotions helped galvanize his team and keep them competing at a high level despite picking up a technical foul just minutes after his coach Jenkins was ejected. 

A 13-0 run in the 4th quarter minutes after Phoenix took its first lead, but Brooks wouldn’t let them lose. “We are the pure definition of it (next man up) Brooks said, and I appreciate each and every one of these guys, team effort.”

Rookie Zaire Williams, who had primary responsibility on Suns All-Star lead guard Chris Paul scored 19 points. DeAnthony Melton had 17 points and put the game away with six straight FT’s in the final 20 seconds, John Konchar had 14 and made both of his 3-pt attempts, Xavier Tillman had 13 point’s and added seven assist filling the shoes of big man Steven Adams. They dominated the Suns on the glass (16-2 off) even without the best offensive rebounder in Adams in the lineup. They were also a +13 from the FT line. 

“Tonight’s a night where you can put your stamp (on it), and say ‘This is who we are, and we’re going to be here for a really long time,'” coach Jenkins said.

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

Despite the loss, the Phoenix Suns still ran away with the best overall record in the league. They represented the West last year and were two games away from becoming champions, so they will still be many people’s favorites to get back there. 

This was their first loss to a Western conference team on the road since December 13 against the Los Angeles Clippers, and they had won nine straight overall on the road before this loss. 

Devin Booker led all scorers with 41 points (17-28 FG) in 37 minutes.

His backcourt mate Paul didn’t have his best game as he wasn’t able to dictate tempo throughout the game as he usually does and only attempted six shots for the entirety of the game. He didn’t convert his first basket until nine minutes left in the third quarter but he did have a game-high 11 assist. “We had spurts where we played pretty well,” Paul said. “Even though Memphis was playing many non-starters extended minutes, there can’t be a letdown. “I don’t care who’s out there playing, they’ve got an NBA jersey on, I learned in this league a long time ago, respect whoever it is.” 

Swingman Miles Bridges chipped in with 18 points. They didn’t get much scoring from they’re big man DeAndre Ayton as he only had nine points but did grab a game-high 12 boards. Cam Payne chipped in with 11 points off the bench.  

“They outplayed us,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “That was the key to the game. Their approach and our approach were two totally different ZIP codes.”

Suns: @ Oklahoma City on Sunday

Grizzlies: @ Utah on Tuesday

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