Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Game Preview: Grizzlies at Suns

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM

The Grizzlies are likely to see less of Michael Beasley in this rematch with the Phoenix Suns.
  • The Grizzlies are likely to see less of Michael Beasley in this rematch with the Phoenix Suns.
First off, apologies for this blog's recent relative dormancy. I was out of town last weekend for a birthday trip and returned to a Grizzlies situation in which three off days preceded a road trip that begins tonight, and a work situation in which the voting deadline for the film critics group to which I belong looms at the end of the week. So I've been in movie mode.

Posting will be modest the rest of this week, but I hope to have the blog back at full throttle next week when the Grizzlies return to FedExForum for a three-game homestand.

With the Grizzlies facing a Suns team they beat in overtime just last week, I'm not going to do a typical match-ups-oriented preview. Instead, a few bullet-point notes and observations on tonight's game and where the Grizzlies stand at the moment:

*The West is looking as tough as ever. Just a few days ago, the Grizzlies (14-4) had the best record in the NBA. Now they have the third best record in the conference behind the Spurs (18-4 on a five-game winning streak) and Thunder (17-4 on an eight-game winning streak) and just barely ahead of the Clippers (15-6 on a seven-game winning streak) and the surprising Warriors (14-7 on a four-game winning streak). Despite the Grizzlies great start, no-one should assume an ultimate improvement on last season's fourth-place finish. This will likely be a tough, close playoff race all season.

*Not on a winning streak? Phoenix, which has kept on losing since being felled by Z-Bo here last week. The Suns have now lost seven in a row, most recently an 8-point home loss to the Magic. One change in Phoenix since last we saw them has been the benching of Michael Beasley.

*After torching the Suns for 15-22 shooting, Zach Randolph was 15-25 across the two games last weekend. Rudy Gay was 7-25 in the just the loss to Atlanta. It's time to even up — at least — the shot distribution between the team's two star forwards.

*While the Grizzlies defense maintains it's spot atop the league, the offense has been slipping. After reaching the top five a couple of weeks ago, it's down to 12th today. Increasingly erratic bench play is a big reason for that. So is a slumping Mike Conley, who has shot only 30% from the floor as the Grizzlies have gone 2-2 over their past four games and who also now has the highest turnover rate of his career. These are both causes for concern and I wonder if they're related: Despite struggling so much over the past four games, Conley has also averaged 39 minutes a game in that span. Given the history of how back-up guards have faired with the Grizzlies and what many of the same players have done after going elsewhere, the Grizzlies can't afford to repeat this trend with Jerryd Bayless.

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