“All of us have just got to play better offensively,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins after the Grizzlies lost ugly to a depleted Phoenix Suns team at FedExForum on Tuesday night.
“Myself, players. We’ve just got to be better.”
After drubbing the Suns 125-100 last Friday night in Phoenix, the Grizzlies were on the other side of a flipped script, losing 125-108.
Ja Morant led Memphis with 34 points, including a spectacular third quarter when he tried to will the Grizzlies out of a double-digit deficit. Desmond Bane was the only other Memphis player in double figures with 14 before Jenkins cleared his bench midway through the fourth quarter.
It was only the third loss at home this season for Memphis, but it was the fourth loss in five games.
Asked if the blowout defeat was some sort of after-effect following the beatdown the Grizzlies took from the Golden State Warriors during their NBA Christmas night debut, Jenkins said no. He pointed out that Memphis’ romp over Phoenix last week was the outlier, noting that the team had not been playing well for a stretch before then.
Morant spoke to that after the Grizzlies shut down the Suns in Phoenix, saying, “The last two games we didn’t have our fire. I voiced it to the team.… We knew that wasn’t Grizzlies basketball. Tonight, we came out with that fire and you see what happened.”
Well, the fire – or something – was definitely missing Tuesday night against the Devin Booker-less Suns at FedExForum.
Duane Washington Jr., a two-way guard in his second year out of Ohio State, scored a career-high 26 points for the Suns. He went 5 for 9 from 3-point range and 10 of 21 from the field overall.
“We needed every bit of it tonight,” Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said. “I thought he gave us a great deal of juice. He gave us a bit of an edge on the floor.”
The Suns were without several key players. Booker, who is trying to come back from a groin injury, lasted four-plus minutes in a Christmas Day loss to Denver and remained out against the Grizzlies. Landry Shamet joined Booker, Cameron Payne (from Memphis) and Cam Johnson on the injury list.
Eight Suns scored in double figures, helping the team stop a three-game slide. Jock Landale scored 16, and Deandre Ayton had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Paul finished with 14 points and six assists.
“We’re just having a rough patch of four or five games,” Jenkins said. “We haven’t lived up to our standard and played like we’re capable of.”
Bane, who was playing his third game after an extended absence with a sprained big toe, entered the night 2 of 15 from 3-point range and missed all four of his attempts from outside the arc.
With three blocks, Jaren Jackson Jr. tied Rudy Gay for fifth on the franchise list in blocks with 420. That was the highlight of an overall subpar performance as he scored only six points on 2 of 12 shooting, with three turnovers and eight rebounds.
The Grizzlies shot 39.6 percent (36-91) for the game and 26.7 percent (8-30) from beyond the arc. The Suns shot 49.4 percent (43-87) and a whopping 54.8 percent (17-31) from 3-point territory.
And that was pretty much it for the Grizzlies.
Now third in the Western Conference after reaching first place, the Grizzlies (20-13) head to Toronto to play the Raptors (15-19), 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies are 7-10 on the road. The Raptors have gone 10-7 at home, but are on a four-game slide in Toronto.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.
With the city of Memphis reeling from water pressure problems extending from a winter storm that packed sub-freezing temperatures, there was some uncertainty surrounding Tuesday night’s game. The Grizzlies confirmed Tuesday afternoon that it would be played as scheduled.
About 38,000 of the city’s utility customers had little or no water as of Tuesday. No fountain drinks were available at concession stands, but there was bottled water and soft drinks.
(This story reflects reports by the Associated Press.)