Monday, December 3, 2012

Game 16 Preview: Grizzlies vs. Suns

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 11:31 PM

The Suns Goran Dragic is moving up the Western Conference point guard rankings, but Mike Conley stands in his way.
  • The Suns' Goran Dragic is moving up the Western Conference point guard rankings, but Mike Conley stands in his way.


The Grizzlies host the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at FedExForum, and I'll be back in the courtside saddle for live coverage. Until then, three thoughts in advance of the game:

1. The Suns are bad: I know the Grizzlies played three home games against bad Eastern Conference teams last week, all wins, though all were close for a while. But I'm not sure the Suns are any better than the Cavs, Raptors, or Pistons. (Indeed, the Suns went 1-2 in three straight road games against those very teams last week, including a 40-point loss in Detroit right before the Pistons came to Memphis.)

After a mirage of a 4-4 start, the Suns have gone 3-7 since and arrive in Memphis at the end of a six-game road trip. (They're 2-8 overall on the road.) Blame me for the jinx if the Griz lose this one, but even though I think the Grizzlies are overdue for a bad loss, with a two-day break coming off that frustrating defeat in San Antonio, I can't imagine this would be it.

2. Bench scoring bounce-back: The Suns rank 28th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency and have been, by far, the worst team in the NBA at defending the three-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 44% on the season. Perhaps this match-up will help bench shooters Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, and Quincy Pondexter have a more productive shooting night than has been the recent norm.

3. Sneaky-good point-guard battle: Mike Conley is starting to get some much-deserved notice as one of the league's most improved players and a potential All-Star candidate. But another Western Conference point guard having off to a really strong start is Phoenix's Goran Dragic. On the surface, Conley and Dragic are having pretty similar seasons:

Mike Conley: 15.3 points, 6.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 steals. 21.1 PER, 50-46-83 shooting percentages

Goran Dragic: 15.3 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 steals. 21.7 PER, 47-38-74 shooting percentages

Conley has been a more dynamic defender and more accurate three-point shooter, but otherwise that's very similar production. Context matters, of course. Conley's doing it for what is, on the merits, one of the top four teams in the NBA. Dragic's doing it for a team that's almost certainly lottery-bound. Dragic has yet to face off the season with one of the West's top three point guards — Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Tony Parker. Conley has seized the fourth spot on that list right now, with Dragic on his heels, so this is a pretty good undercard bout with regard to the West's point-guard pecking order.

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