Dillon Brooks of the Grizzlies somehow soars, scores and gets fouled on this play, helping Memphis take down the Phoenix Suns at FedExForum on Friday night. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

Phoenix plays its home basketball games at the Footprint Center in ZIP code 85004. Memphis played host at FedExForum in ZIP code 38103 on Friday night and the teams’ varying approaches to the game were not lost on losing coach Monty Williams of the visiting Suns.

“They outplayed us. That was the key to the game. Their approach and our approach were two totally different ZIP codes tonight,” said Williams after the Grizzlies outlasted the Suns 122-118. “They outplayed us from second-chance points to turnovers. … We gave up a 68-points second-half. You don’t even need to go any further than that.”

Memphis’ De’Anthony Melton deflects the ball off the hands of Cam Johnson of the Suns. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

The game pitted the two teams with the NBA’s best records. Phoenix (62-15 ) has clinched the No. 1. Seed in the Western Conference playoffs, while Memphis (55-23) has sewn up the second seed.

The Grizzlies, who improved to 20-2 playing without All-Star guard Ja Morant, fielded a team minus four other rotational players, including starters Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Steven Adams. The team that took the court for Memphis was ready to throw down from jump street.

“That was unbelievably poor defense and not the type of approach that we would expect,” said Williams. “You can have off nights because you’re missing shots, but I thought from an effort standpoint, they just outplayed us in that department. It wasn’t like we didn’t know that. That’s all we showed was them attacking the glass and attacking the paint.”

Xavier Tillman stayed ready while out of Memphis’ regular rotation. Against the Suns he had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists in 28 minutes. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

Not taking the excuse route, Williams said, “…they outplayed us. You have to tip your hat to their style of play. They lived up to their style of play tonight, we did not.”

Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins was forced to give up his courtside vantage point in the second quarter. Arguing the absence of a foul call after a made-basket by the Grizzlies forward Jon Konchar, Jenkins was assessed two technicals, with an automatic ejection.

“What an unbelievable victory,” said Jenkins. “Guys out of the lineup, guys stepping up. … I’m proud of assistant coach Darko (Rajaković) and our coaching staff to hold it down. That’s Grizzlies basketball. That’s what we do, next man up. …  What a heck of a game against one of the best teams in the league. Our guys brought it tonight for 48 minutes.”

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins exits the arena after being tossed from the game. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

Konchar, who contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds) to a multi-pronged Memphis attack, noted the Grizzlies’ ability to play in different rotations.

“Everybody just stays locked in during practice,” he said. “I mean people watch the game and everybody just stays locked in. We move the ball really well side-to-side and get open shots and just play hard no matter what. …

“It’s just next man up mentality really. Just go in, get your work done. And just play hard no matter what. The system works for everybody, honestly. So just move the ball and it’s great.”

Kyle Anderson (6 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) of the Grizzlies gets the jump ball over the Suns’ Mikal Bridges as the Phoenix’s Chris Paul attempts to block out Jon Konchar. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

Memphis played its first home game since clinching the Western Conference Southwestern Division title, its first divisional title, with a win over the playoffs-seeking San Antonio Spurs earlier in the week. That victory also locked up the second seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs.

Led by its lone regular starter, Dillon Brooks (30 points, 7 assists), the Grizzlies had seven players in double figures. De’Anthony Melton had 19 points and Ziaire Williams had 17 points.

Rookie Santi Aldama, who has been a double-digit scoring force for Memphis’ G-League affiliate, had 12 points, including an under-the-rim, reverse dunk that propelled the Grizzlies bench to its collective feet.

“I mean, that was crazy,” said Konchar. “He does it in warm-ups. He’s really athletic. And he’s like, 6’11”, seven-feet tall. The reverse was sick. He was awesome.”

Aldama, who also had five rebounds and an assist, shared a post-game observation that took in the night and the season in its entirety.

“I think it (support) sums up our team and our season. Seeing everybody get hyped (about his dunk), I think we do it every single play, like every good play everybody is cheering for each other. And we’re just family, so I think it just shows what this team is all about. …

“This year, I came in and everybody was cheering me on every day, talking to me every day. I just felt part of the family since day one. It’s just having these good vibes, obviously great players, but great people. From the staff, players, everybody … it’s just contagious.

“I think you don’t get that everywhere and it’s like a really good experience, especially my first year….”

Jarrett Culver of the Grizzlies blocks the shot of Devin Booker of the Suns. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

The Suns were led by Devin Booker with 41 points. Deandre Ayton had 9 points and 12 rebounds. Chris Paul finished with 8 points and 11 assists.

Paul, known to be direct, said, “Yeah, they just outplayed us … from the beginning of the game to the end. We had those spurts where we played pretty well. …

“End of the day, in this league, you got to play the game that is in front of you, respect whoever is playing no matter what it is. Obviously, if you see them later the team won’t look like that, but you just always got to respect your opponent.”

With the victory, Memphis became the only team in the league this year to win a season series (2-1) against the Suns.

One of seen Grizzlies with double-digit scoring, Brandon Clarke puts in two of his 11 points. He also had 5 rebounds, 3 assists in 28 minutes. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)


  • Next for the Grizzlies will be three days of rest before traveling to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz on April 5, with tipoff set for 8 p.m. CDT.
  • Memphis is only two wins shy of the most wins in the franchise’s regular-season history.
  • Four games remain in the regular season.
  • The Grizzlies are on a 7-game winning streak and have won 9 in a row at FedExForum.