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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Viewing Memphis’ pounding by the Suns as an NBA slice of life

No matter your line of work, you’re likely to take a “lick” on some days. At the end of such a day, you boil it down to lessons learned and – as soon as possible – pick back up with some rejuvenating part of life beyond work.

Insert Memphis’ 119-94 drubbing by Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns at FedExForum on Friday night and you have the licking. Ja Morant brings the rest of the picture into view.

Prior to the game, Morant, who continued his torrid start to the season with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, was courtside, drawing smiles from his baby daughter Kaari Jaidyn. Moments after the Grizzlies absorbed a tipoff-to-final-buzzer throttling, that’s just what Morant was back to doing.

As for the lessons learned, it was more of a fresh restatement of what already was known from Morant’s vantage point.

“Play harder, for 48 minutes. Games we did we win, it is that simple, ready to play to the end, all four quarters.”

The next opportunity is Saturday night, with the Grizzlies traveling to New Orleans to play the Pelicans in the second game of a back-to-back.

Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins: “Obviously, took a lick tonight. We’ve just got to be ready to play better tomorrow.”

Ja Morant blazes past Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

At six up and six down, the Grizzlies have shown two versions of themselves: one on strong display in handing Steph Curry and the resurgent Golden State Warriors their only loss of the season; and the other evident in blowouts such as against the Suns.

The Suns (8-3) played like defending Western Conference champions, holding a crowd-quieting, 30-point lead at one point.

“I’m not going to use youth as an excuse or anything like that,” Jenkins said about the varying performances of the Grizzlies so far in the young season. “It’s just a matter of just finding consistency and just going out there and just playing better.”

When playing well, Memphis’ defense has led to offense, which the Grizzlies’ sharpshooter, Desmond Bane, points to as the direction for getting back on the winning track after consecutive losses.

Desmond Bane takes a shot at interrupting Chris Paul’s offensive intentions. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

“A strong defensive effort. I think we need to get back to enjoying playing defense and flying around for 48 minutes. I feel like our defense has let us down in the games we lose.

“We are better when we get out in transition and are able to run, play at a faster pace. We have not been able to do that because teams are scoring at a high rate.”

The goal is consistency and it “goes back to defense,” said Bane, who had nine points and eight rebounds.

“We are not being consistent guarding and we dig ourselves a hole. It’s tough to climb out. We have had a tough start to the season, played a bunch of good teams. Almost all of our losses will probably be to playoff teams this year, or last year. We just have to bounce back, but we have a resilient group, so I think we will be fine.”

Getting to “fine” would be aided by shooting better. The Grizzlies struggled against the Hornets on Wednesday and against the Suns.

“I was joking around saying that is probably the most threes I have missed since high school in a two-game stretch,” Bane said, continuing “… everybody is telling me to keep shooting the ball.… I put the work in, so I am not worried.’”

On shots not falling, Morant said, “We cannot control that, we have to shoot the ball. Hope we make it, shoot with confidence, make them miss and turn to the next play.”

Ja Morant soars over Frank Kaminsky for two of his 26 points. (Photo: Warren Roseborough)

And, when the game is over, boil it down to lessons learned, picking back up – as soon as possible – with some rejuvenating part of life beyond work as the season and its cycles unfold.

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