Postgame Report: Grizzlies fall to Suns 128-97 to finish home stand
Key Stat of the Night
- The Phoenix Suns drained a franchise-record 24 threes (24/46; 52%) while the Grizzlies only managed to drop 5/33 (15.2%) from behind the arc.
Key Run of the Night
- The Suns trounced the Grizzlies with a 23-4 run spanning from the final 6:23 minutes of Q1 until 10:32 of Q2 to jump to an early 32-15 lead. The Suns would lead by more than 14 for the rest of the contest.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ offense fell flat in the final game of a week-long home stand, losing to the Phoenix Suns 128-97 on Saturday at FedExForum.
Devin Booker scored 23 points while Dario Saric tallied a season-high 19 points. Chris Paul had 16 points and six assists to pass to move up to sixth on the all-time NBA assist list (9,891), passing Oscar Robertson (9,887).
Gorgui Dieng led the Grizzlies with 15 points and Jonas Valanciunas recorded his 15th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Justise Winslow scored nine points with seven rebounds in his highly anticipated return to the court after being sidelined for over a year due to multiple injuries.
Rookies Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman Sr. were deployed in the starting lineup for the Grizzlies. It was the Chris Paul show in the first quarter, however, after a slow offensive start for both teams. Paul’s eight points and two assists led the Suns to a 26-8 run and comfortable lead in the first quarter.
The Suns only added to the lead in the second quarter while the Grizzlies continued to struggle finding any offense. Phoenix shot 50 percent from the field and went 13-for-25 from three while the Grizzlies managed to make only one of their 18 3-point attempts in the first half. The Suns took a 65-34 lead into the half.
The Grizzlies came back with a short run to start the second half, but pinpoint shooting from all over the court helped the Suns maintain the dominant lead until the final horn.
The Grizzlies will head to the Lone Star State to face the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Feb. 22. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT.
On Justise Winslow’s return:I'm so happy for him. Exactly what I expected, him to go out there and compete and have fun doing it. He had the biggest smile on his face. I'm so proud of all the work he's put in. Heck of a job defensively. This guy's got a bright future with us, and I'm so happy to see him out there and him having a lot of fun.
On celebrating HBCUs and Black History Month:HBCUs are getting so much more publicity and notoriety and attention... It needs to be 365 (days per year). There's a passion behind it. This is something I've talked about recently with everything going on in our country and in the history of our country. We need to be having these dialogues. We need to be celebrating Black History every single day. It can't be just one month. Tonight's a special night. It's one game in our long season, but it's got to be something that everyone is just aware of 365 and the importance of a long history and a great history.
On Justise Winslow’s performance in the second half:I’m pleased with him all game. He went out there, and I said before again, I just wanted him to attack. Go out there and compete, and he just found his groove. He's the ultimate pro. He'll find his way. He's got to work his way back in to NBA game, reps and shape and win and all that stuff, but he was attacking it full force, and that's a ton of credit to him. He'll be back to normal Justise very, very soon.
On Justise Winslow as a playmaker and as a primary ball handler off the bench:We'll see how it unfolds. I just want him to be a playmaker out there. We'll see how we deploy him. Initially he’s going to be coming off the bench, and I think having the ball in his hands is going to lead some more good things. As much as I can continue to learn him as a player, as much as I already know, but seeing him with our group and in his teammates. I’m very excited about putting the ball in his hands a lot more.
On his first game back from injury:It was a great day, man. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. I was excited. A lot of nerves, to be honest, but just being out there competing was a lot of fun. The first half, I was just trying to get that first bucket. A little excited, but once I settled down, settled into my game, I felt pretty comfortable out there. But a lot of praise to this organization, helping me get back out there. And my teammates, they helped me, very confident while I was out there playing.
On the challenge of returning to the floor while changing teams and adjusting over the last year:It was definitely a challenging year, very difficult. Came to a great organization. An organization that wanted me, and that truly believed in me. Getting healthy the first time around and getting hurt in the bubble are things I didn’t expect, but I just stayed with it, stayed positive, kept pushing forward. Not only that, but you add the whole COVID [situation] and everything, so I missed time due to that and that affected my rehab. But it’s been a crazy year for everybody, just emotionally, mentally with the virus. You add basketball, and a pretty serious injury on top of that. I give a lot of thanks to my family and my friends, and this organization. Like I said, they kept me steady, they kept me level, they believed in me. So, it’s been a hell of a journey. Tonight, was just a glimpse of the iceberg, just getting my feet wet. But it was a good experience for me, obviously a lot to learn from, but I had fun out there despite the 30-point beatdown, but we’ll get better and attack Dallas Monday.
On his perspective on the past year amid social justice issues and COVID-19:I think when going through an injury, you have to take a second and zoom out. Basketball has always been a big aspect of my life, and you get hurt and that’s kind of taken away. So, you’ve got to figure out different ways to find that joy and that meaning and that purpose in life. I was hurt a lot of 2020 [during] a lot of the social injustice, a lot of the murders and the killings, a lot of the prosecutions or the lack thereof. So, it was a whirlwind for me, just trying to balance everything, being away from my family, wondering how the virus was going to affect them. So, this hasn’t been an easy year for anybody, but I just try to stay with it and with the people that mean a lot to me. But it’s definitely been a crazy 14 months, 15 months for me.
On working with Taylor Jenkins and how that has improved Justice’s game to help the Grizzlies:He’s a hell of a coach, man. He really inspires. He really spreads confidence, but in a way, he kind of has a swag to him. He has energy to him that is really contagious. I haven’t been able to do too much X’s and O’s. It’s only my first game, but I think he really knows how to get the best out of his players in terms of play calls, matchups, schemes and that sort of thing. Just the type of player I am, a two-way guy, I think he’s going to be great for me and figuring out how I can best be effective. We’re just getting started. He wants me to go talk to him right after this [press conference]. So that relationship is already blooming. We sometimes just get away from basketball and have dinner together, watch games and talk about life. I think that’s one of my biggest praises for Coach Jenkins is just being so personable, being able to relate to us. He’s pretty young, I think he’s 36, so he kind of gets it. So, I think that’s what makes him a special coach.
On how much he relishes the opportunity to stop an opposing perimeter player like Devin Booker:Yeah, for sure. That’s where I hang my hat at the end of the day – defense. It’s half of the game. It seems like a lot of people have forgotten that. I was joking with the guys – you know, I get thrown right back in the fire, right on one of the league’s most elite scorers. But those are the challenges I relish, like you said. I like that challenge. I like being able to go up against the other team’s best player. Coach [Jenkins] made sure that in every huddle, there was a ‘JW’ next to Booker on the clipboard. I love it. I love being thrown back in the fire. I remember my rookie year, it was LeBron James, second game of the season. Then James Harden, third game. DeMar DeRozan in like the fourth game. So, it’s nothing new to me. Being thrown in the fire is something that I enjoy, those type of challenges. That’s definitely the type of player I am.
On his teammates’ support and how much on-court chemistry he feels with the team:They kind of knew leading up to today for about a week or so [that I was coming back today]. But just a lot of confidence [is what they gave me]. Even after the first half, JV [Jonas Valanciunas] just walking back to the locker room, keeping me upbeat, keeping me confident. So, they knew. They’ve never really seen me get in ‘game mode’ – I’m a little bit different, less talkative, more serious, not as many jokes. They kind of felt that. I felt like they felt the intensity, felt my focus. But they’ve been nothing but supportive. Even after the game, Coach [Jenkins] remarks, giving me a big shout out, just getting back out there and doing what I love to do. I’m very thankful, man. We’ve got a great group of guys and they really care about me as a player and as a person.
- Gorgui Dieng led the Grizzlies with 15 points and four rebounds.
- Jonas Valanciunas recorded his 15th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
- Justise Winslow scored nine points with seven rebounds in his Grizzlies debut.
- Devin Booker scored a team-high 23 points.
- Dario Saric tallied a season-high 19 points.
- Chris Paul had 16 points and six assists to pass to move up to sixth on the all-time NBA assist list (9,891), passing Oscar Robertson (9,887).