In yet another back-to-back for the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies come into town, cold on a four-game losing streak. The Suns are hoping to push that to five and erase the fourth quarter collapse last night against the Portland Trailblazers.
Phoenix emerged (barely) victorious from the first meeting with the Grizz back on November 5, in an epic double-overtime contest featuring a made free throw -- that Rudy Gay intended to miss -- that led to Jason Richardson's improbable in-bounds tip-in with .4 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into extra time. The Suns eventually won 123-118 against a clearly exhausted and demoralized Memphis team. The second match-up was a relatively innocuous Suns loss three days later.
The Grizzlies will be looking to right things after a disappointing first quarter of the season that finds them at 8-14 and regressing from last year's promising squad. O.J. Mayo, in particular, has struggled to find his shot and his place in the rotation after being moved to the bench in hopes of providing a spark to an otherwise ineffective second unit.
The Suns also find themselves uncomfortable with the situation of their non-starters. After last season's spectacular bench play, this year's team hasn't been able to count on the reserves to extend leads or even hold serve while Steve Nash, Richardson and the other starters rest.
Of course, the team's rotations have been drastically different this year. In the 2009-10 campaign, Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Lou Amundson, and Channing Frye could be counted on to play the same role and relative minutes night in and night out. With Robin Lopez's injury and a number of offseason changes, "Planet Purple," as the bench had been called, has been in constant flux. Frye has spent significant time in the starting lineup; Hedo Turkoglu has been benched and given some playmaking responsibility, perhaps disrupting Dragic's rhythm; and Josh Childress has been mostly disappointing as a Sun.
Particularly against Memphis -- a team that is very shallow, with starters often playing 40+ minutes -- the bench will be enormously important, doubly so given that this is the second night of a back-to-back (much like the Suns' previous game against the Grizz). The Suns are 2-3 in that situation.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. Arizona time and will be televised locally on FSAZ in Phoenix, and on Sports 620 KTAR. Fans can follow along with the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.