Phoenix is hoping a new year doesn’t mean too much change, unless it’s even better than what the latter portion of 2013 produced.
The Suns (19-11) have won nearly two thirds of their games heading into tonight’s matchup with the Grizzlies, though one of those losses came at Memphis on Dec. 3.
The Grizzlies have fallen on hard times, going 13-17 to sit five games outside the top eight in the West. Phoenix will look to compound their problems and get some added revenge in the process. Here’s what to watch for tonight.
Will Phoenix Contain Role Players?
Ed Davis (21 points, 12 rebounds), Kosta Koufos (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Jon Leuer (23 points, nine rebounds) more than filled in for then-injured Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
The Suns were uncharacteristically caught off-guard, something Head Coach Jeff Hornacek will adamantly try to prevent tonight.
20-plus for Dragic?
The Slovenian playmaker is coming off back-to-back 20-plus point performances, including a 26-poin outing at the Clippers where he wasn’t even needed for the fourth quarter.
The Suns are 7-2 when Dragic goes for 20 or more. He’ll have the added challenge of being guarded by Tony Allen for much of the game tonight, but don’t expect that to stop his season-long streak of aggressiveness.
Suns’ Low-Post Defense
Phoenix successfully frustrated Blake Griffin into just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting as well as four turnovers on Monday night. They would love to cause similar havoc against Memphis’ Zach Randolph.
The 12-year veteran saw his four-game string of 20-point games broken on Monday against Chicago, so it’s likely he’ll be motivated to return to form.
Channing Frye has proven adept at forcing opposing post-up players into awkward shots with his wingspan and straight-up positioning on defense. His ability to do more of the same tonight could go a long way toward a Suns win.
Memphis’ backcourt of Mike Conley and Tony Allen is one of the best in the league at forcing turnovers, coming up with a combined 3.5 steals per game.
Phoenix has been a little more liberal with the ball than they’d prefer, recently, committing more than 17 turnovers per game over the last three.
The onus will be on Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to be efficient with the ball, which would prevent Memphis from gaining confidence through easy points in transition.
Does Good Stretch Start Tonight?
The Suns more than survived December, going 10-3 in a stretch that included 11 Western Conference games.
January boasts just three games against teams that are currently above .500. Hornacek, however, has frequently warned his players to not take struggling teams lightly. Tonight will hint as to how deeply the message has sunk in.