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Suns Can't Grind One Out Against Memphis
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.comWhenever the Suns and Grizzlies square of, it usually promises to be a good one. Sunday’s contest was no different.
Much like the overtime game the two clubs played earlier this season, as well as the December 12 game that saw Suns point guard Goran Dragic nail a buzzer-beater for the win, Sunday’s contest wasn’t decided until late in the fourth.
However, the Suns fell short in the end, dropping a 92-81 home decision to Memphis.
“We really could never get anything going,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “We got bogged down offensively and struggled to make shots. Had some tough turnovers and never really got any kind of rhythm.”
The Suns were undone by icy shooting from the floor, knocking down only 24 percent of their shots in the first quarter, 33 percent in the first half and just 40 percent the entire night. Meanwhile, Memphis drilled 54 percent of its shots on the night.
In order to get the win over the Grizzlies, points in the paint were going to be critical. The difference between losing the first time the two clubs met and winning the second time was that very statistic.
On Sunday, Phoenix surrendered 10 more points in the paint, as well as 18 more on the break.
“They were moving the ball and we were stagnant,” Suns swingman Jared Dudley said. “We have to set better screens, have better ball movement and we’re taking too tough of shots. If you look at our offense today, they were getting easy transition buckets and we were getting nothing easy.”
On offense, the Suns received a career-high 17 points from P.J. Tucker, while Marcin Gortat was the only other Sun in double figures with 12 points.
Phoenix begin a four-game road trip in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
After blocking everything in sight to start the season and then falling into a bit of a slump, Gortat has rebounded nicely recently. The Suns center came into Sunday having posted three-straight double-doubles, which is one shy of his season high of four-straight double-doubles.
The Polish Hammer averaged 13.7 points, 11.7 boards and 1.67 blocks in his last three games. Although, that streak came to an end Sunday, Gortat still posted 12 points, eight boards and two blocks against the Grizzlies.
Before the game, Gentry said that he’s going to try to stagger his substitutions in the future. Instead of bringing the entire second unit in together sometime late in the first quarter, he plans on subbing in the players one at a time, as opposed to five at a time.
Against the Jazz on Friday, the Suns had their worst quarter of the season when the reserves entered the game in the second period altogether.
“It’s hard to run plays for guys who just got into the game,” he said.
After a tough loss Friday, Gentry took a different approach to practice Saturday. Instead of pushing them with a physical practice, the Suns head coach spent most of the practice breaking down film with his players.
“We’re getting ready to play four games in five days,” Gentry said. “So we’re not going to come in and kill somebody in practice when we have to get on a plane and fly for three and a half hours.”
It’s one of the challenges of an NBA head coach: discerning between pushing your players and taking your foot off the gas.
The Suns medical staff aids Gentry in this manner, letting him know when the players may be too fatigued for a full practice during a busy season. Saturday was one of those practices.
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