Last Friday night the Suns played the San Antonio Spurs tough but lost. Saturday night they played the Dallas Mavericks tough but fell by three.
Monday night they played well again, desperate in a must-win game, but the Memphis Grizzlies played a little better. Memphis rode its grinding style and it reined in what Phoenix wanted to do..
The win guarantees the Grizzlies a playoff spot and locks the Suns out of the postseason. That despite winning 47 games (with one more to go), that despite being one of the biggest surprises and most entertaining teams in the NBA this season.
The Grizzlies are the eight seed now but if they win on Wednesday against the Mavericks then Memphis moves up to the seven seed — and they want that. Badly. Memphis has struggled mightily the last couple seasons with San Antonio (the top seed), they think they stand a better chance against the Thunder (the two seed).
Memphis raced out to an early lead behind Zach Randolph, leading by a dozen in the first quarter. Memphis struggled at points in the game — turning the ball over on 20 percent of your possessions, one if five trips down the court, will do that — however their grinding style threw Phoenix off its up-tempo style. Both teams staged mini comeback that set the tone for the close fourth quarter.
Then down 91-90 with 1:27 after a Mason Plumlee tip in, the Grizzles scored the final seven points of the game to get the win. In started with a Mike Conley three, then saw Zach Randolph make the steal, get down the court and finish at the rim in transition. Suddenly the Grizzlies were in control. Channing Frye missed a three, Goran Dragic did on the next possession.
You could fee it slipping away and Conley free throws with 21 seconds left sealed it.
Randolph finished with 32 points to lead Memphis, Mike Miller had 21 off the bench, going 5-of-6 from three.
Markieff Morris led five Suns in double figures with 21 points.
Phoenix should be congratulated — before the season most people (myself included) thought they would be in the tanking mix. But GM Ryan McDonough made some smart plays — the trade for Eric Bledsoe for one, the hiring of Jeff Hornacek for another. This is a team with picks and cap room coming in future years, Phoenix is in a great position going forward.
But Memphis — who battled back from a rough 10-15 stretch in the middle of the season when Marc Gasol was out — is in a playoff position this year. And they are one dangerous team as the playoffs start.