Monty Williams is fed up. The Phoenix Suns head coach lit into his team after Friday’s 125-100 loss to the Grizzlies to end a four-game homestand, a game Memphis led by as many as 34 points before a sellout crowd of 17,071 at Footprint Center.
“Our edge in these games, whether it’s Boston, Memphis, these teams who are big and physical and want to put their hands on us, we don’t have the pre-game edge that we’ve had around here,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get back to chasing something and right now, I feel like the prey and I don’t like that feeling. I just told our guys the same thing. We got to get our edge back.”
The Grizzlies (20-11) took a double-digit lead less than four minutes into the game and led by as many 22 points in the first quarter.
“They hit us first,” Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. “Came out, jumped on us early and we never recovered. They were physical. They got a little bit of everything. They got 3s, free throws, layups and we didn’t.”
Memphis led 39-20 after one.
“Right from the jump, they just put their hands on us,” Williams said. “Their mentality was, we may lose the game but we’re not going to lose the fight, and they won both tonight.”
The Suns (19-14) were once again without Devin Booker, who missed a third straight game with groin soreness after scoring a season-high 58 points in Phoenix’s comeback win last week over New Orleans.
Phoenix is 1-4 without Booker, who missed two games with left hamstring tightness.
“I am not going to downplay the fact that we miss Book,” said Landry Shamet, who started for Booker and finished with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. “Of course, we do. He is an All-NBA guy. He should be in the MVP conversation. We miss him, but none of the basketball X’s and O’s stuff matters if we don’t pick up on that mentality, physicality. Hit first.”
The Suns will face the Grizzlies again Tuesday in Memphis.
“We don’t fear nobody,” Suns guard Dillon Brooks said. “We got a different type of swag to us; confidence out the roof. Ultimately, we all humble each other in-house. It is great to have everybody back. Great to win like this; we got these guys in like four days when we head back to Memphis. We will be ready for them.”
Williams provided an update on Booker before Friday’s game.
“He’s been shooting the last couple of days,” Williams said. “Not moving as much, but he’s progressing a bit. He’s gotten up a bunch of shots. He’s chomping at the bit as you can imagine. Book’s frustrated when he’s not on the floor. Hoping he can get out there soon.”
When asked if Booker would play in Sunday’s Christmas game at Denver, Williams said, “I don’t want to speculate.”
Booker is listed as questionable.
Cameron Payne sat a fifth straight game with a right foot strain and Cameron Johnson hasn’t played since tearing his right meniscus Nov. 4 against Portland. He has been progressing since having a procedure done on the ligament Nov. 8 as Johnson looks to return in two months from that date.
Payne is listed out for Sunday’s game.
Johnson is going on the six-game road trip that ends Jan. 4 in Cleveland. He isn’t expected to play during the trip, but making the trip is another positive step towards him returning.
Four of Phoenix’s next six opponents have winning records as the Raptors and Wizards are the only two who don’t, but Washington just beat the Suns in comeback fashion, 113-110, Tuesday in Phoenix.
- Sunday at Denver (20-11).
- Tuesday at Memphis (20-11).
- Wednesday at Washington (13-21).
- Dec. 30 at Toronto (15-18).
- Jan. 2 at New York (18-15).
- Jan. 4 at Cleveland (22-12).
“We’ve just got to play hard,” Suns wing Mikal Bridges said. “Play together and just be there for one another.”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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View more on Youtube Game Recap: Grizzlies 125, Suns 100
The Grizzlies defeat the Suns, 125-100. Jaren Jackson Jr. recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, while Desmond Bane (17 points, three rebounds, two assists) and Ja Morant (12 points, five rebounds, 11 assists) added a combined 29 points in the victory. Deandre Ayton tallied 18 points and five rebounds for the Suns in a losing effort. The Grizzlies improve to 20-11 on the season, while the Suns fall to 19-14.