NEWS Grizzlies, nine-game winning streak, host Suns

Grizzlies, nine-game winning streak, host Suns

The shorthanded Phoenix Suns face a big challenge when they wrap up their four-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Memphis is on a season-high nine-game winning streak, the longest streak in the NBA, while Phoenix has lost 11 of its past 13 games.

Ja Morant is averaging 28.9 points in the Grizzlies’ seven-game streak. The star point guard had 23 points, 10 assists and arguably the best dunk of the year in Saturday’s 130-112 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Desmond Bane had 25 points for Memphis, a season high in 16 games over .500. The Grizzlies have certainly made Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle a believer.

“This is quite possibly the best team on the planet right now,” Carlisle said. “They’re hard to play.”

The Suns struggled without some injured players, including Devin Booker (groin), Cameron Payne (foot), Chris Paul (hip), Landry Shamet (hip) and Cam Johnson (knee).

Shamet has missed the final three games with right hip soreness and is expected to return Monday. Johnson could join him later this week.

Phoenix lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-116 on Friday despite Damion Lee scoring a career-high 31 points. Mikal Bridges added 24 in the loss.

“I tell the guys we’ve got to keep our spirits up because when it all starts to come together, it just multiplies,” Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said. “We have to keep trying.”

Deandre Ayton had 11 points and 11 rebounds after missing two games with a sprained left ankle, but the 7-foot center went 5 for 18 from the field.

“He’s got to keep playing with force and attacking people,” Williams said. “When he disappears, the team is reading. He has to understand that the team has that in the scouting report. When he pushes, he keeps people away from him.”

Williams was encouraged by the performance of third-year guard Saben Lee, who scored 12 points in 13 minutes off the bench and could see more minutes against the Grizzlies.

The Suns will need to go all out to keep up with Memphis, who averaged 124 points during the winning streak.

Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke returned in Saturday’s win over Indiana, scoring 11 points after missing the first six games with left hip soreness.

Ziaire Williams scored 13 points in his first start of the season. Williams started in place of Dillon Brooks, who was listed as a day-to-day game with right ankle soreness.

The Grizzlies are also watching the status of forward John Konchar, who sat out Saturday’s game with a non-COVID illness.

While Memphis has looked dominant at times during the streak, coach Tyler Jenkins said the team still has room to grow.

“We didn’t play perfect basketball,” Jenkins said. “I’m happy that our players have found different ways to win, whether we’re ahead or behind. Every game has presented us with a different challenge and our players have kept going.”

Memphis and Phoenix’s first two meetings this season have been split, with each team winning on the road.

–Field-level media

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