Phoenix vs Memphis: House of the Rising Suns

The Memphis Grizzlies (1-3) return to the confines of FedExForum after a one game road trip to the west coast that saw the Grizzlies lose to the Los Angeles Lakers 120-91. The Grizzlies will play the Phoenix Suns (3-2) who are coming off of a 121-110 win against the Golden State Warriors. 

You’re gonna have good days, and you’re gonna have bad days. Such is the way of the world. 

The Grizzlies had themselves a bad day in LA. 

One could analyze the in and outs of how exactly the Grizzlies lost this one, specifically the free throw disparity and the size difference between the lineups the Grizzlies and Lakers put on the court at any given point (Anthony Davis’ free throw spree encapsulated both these), but to be completely and brutally honest, watching this game as a Grizzlies fan was a mixture of…. let’s call it agony and apathy.

Frustration and fouls.

Tediousness on Taco Tuesday. 

Instead of focusing on the actual in’s and out’s of the game itself, it may be more important to view this game as a test of this team’s ability to get up after getting knocked down. Because make no mistake about it, this team got knocked down Tuesday night, worse than they have all year. It’s one thing to take moral victories from close games, but it’s another thing entirely to take anything away from a demoralizing game such as the one played in LA. 

The Grizzlies performance on Saturday against the Suns will go a long way in showing what this young team does when they have to pick themselves off the mat after a knockout. It will test the ability of the coaching staff to keep their guys motivated, and the ability of the players to keep a certain level of confidence on the court. 

This ability will be tested by the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are off to a surprising start, have won surprising games against high quality opponents, and are playing a surprisingly high level of quality team basketball. There are a lot of different variables to consider when observing this matchup, so we have enlisted the fine folks at r/suns to help give us some extra insight into this Suns team and what they think of both the matchup as well as some players that were involved in an offseason trade between the Suns and the Grizzlies. We posted 5 questions and received several responses to each question, to which I will summarize. To see the full set of responses, you can follow the link here.

1) The Suns are off to a 3-2 start. What are some overall impressions you’ve gathered from the team’s performance in the first week of the season? 

The overall sentiment from Suns fans is that the team has massively improved in two key areas — their ball movement and their defensive effort. And the numbers definitely back this up, as the Suns currently lead the league in assist%. Suns fans have also noted a potential culture shift under new head coach Monty Williams, which has led to renewed energy within the team and, in turn, the fan base. 

2) DeAndre Ayton was recently handed a 25 game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug policy. How has this impacted the team’s overall gameplan and how have they adjusted in his absence? 

Suns fans, understandably, have missed Ayton’s presence as an inside threat and his ability to rebound. However, in his absence, two key reserves have stepped up, these being Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky. These guys aren’t the same type of presence that Ayton is, however their shooting ability has allowed the Suns to stretch the floor more effectively. 

3) The Suns and Grizzlies completed a trade this summer involving Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton coming to Memphis. Grizzlies fans have had limited exposure to both Melton and Jackson this season so far. What should Grizzlies fans expect from both Melton and Jackson on the court? 

Suns fans viewed Melton in about the same light we viewed Jevon Carter last year. Effective on the defensive end but underdeveloped on the offensive end. Interestingly, several fans noted that he may be used more effectively at the two guard spot, which is where several quality minutes could be of use to the Grizzlies. As for Josh Jackson, fans noted that he’ll be the hardest working guy on the court, has ideal size and athleticism, and has spurts of great play showing his high potential. However, he was also noted as making several boneheaded plays a game, shows a low basketball IQ, and overall is an extremely inconsistent and inefficient player. 

4) In that same summer trade, Jevon Carter made his way to Phoenix. Carter had somewhat of a cult following in Memphis thanks to his defensive intensity and relentless hustle, but could never get a consistent role in the team. How has he performed so far, and could you see a situation where Carter carves out a solid role in Phoenix? 

To put it bluntly, Phoenix LOVES them some Jevon Carter. His defensive intensity has earned him new fans in a new place, and his three point shot has even started falling at a consistent rate (nearly 50% so far). It was noted that the backup point guard was originally projected to be Ty Jerome, however he has been hurt and Carter was given those minutes. Most fans believe that Carter has earned the backup PG spot outright and needs 20 minutes a game. 

5) What are your predictions for Saturday night’s matchup?

Through the various “Suns win” answers that populated most people’s responses, one stood out to me. It said simply “It’s gonna be SUNNY.” And I think that is an accurate state of affairs for both of these teams. Both of these team have a high degree of optimism for their team and their future, and regardless of the results of Saturday’s contest, both fanbases have a lot to look forward to. 

— u/HLee51

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