Heading into Memphis as part of a six-game road trip, the shorthanded Phoenix Suns need to bring the playoff intensity and approach to beat Memphis.
This midweek, mid-road trip game is not a playoff game for the Phoenix Suns. If it were, several players who are nursing injuries would likely go. Instead, Phoenix will be facing Memphis shorthanded, with four rotational players out, including star Devin Booker. The Suns need to take a playoff approach without much firepower and change the game.
Phoenix is facing Memphis without major offensive weapons
The absence of Booker is a big blow to the Suns. DBook is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging more than 27 points, five assists, and four rebounds per night. Booker has been battling injuries for a couple of weeks now, and Phoenix would be well advised to tread cautiously with the face of the franchise.
Booker’s absence is compounded by Cameron Johnson recovering from a meniscus tear and the team’s top two backcourt backups out, Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet. The loss of Shamet is incredibly hurtful, as the guard has been playing well and is the primary replacement for Booker.
Those players account for more than 64 points and 15 assists per game, and Phoenix is not deep enough to replace that production. Given the lack of available firepower and what Monty Williams does have available, the Suns need to change their approach versus Memphis and play playoff basketball.
The Suns need to play hard-core halfcourt basketball
To beat the Grizzles on Tuesday evening, the Suns will be unable to outscore them in a shootout with limited offensive weapons available. However, one thing is valid for the Phoenix and Memphis; neither has won this season when scoring less than 100 points, which is the Suns’ path to victory.
Phoenix needs to slow the game down and play out every possession like a playoff game.
This does not mean Chris Paul runs 35 pick-and-rolls, but maybe a combination of Paul and Duane Washington Jr. do. This slow-the-game pick-and-roll action can occur with all the bigs – Deandre Ayton, Jock Landale, and Bismack Biyombo – and with three-point shooters like Damion Lee and Torrey Craig on some pick-and-pop action.
This also means changing up the rotation and playing multiple bigs together, which the Suns need anyway to battle Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the paint. And as a result, Ayton should get a lot of touches and looks as the Suns try to work at the Grizzles’ strength.
Reducing the possessions, slowing the game, and keeping Memphis out of the open floor is how the Suns can beat the high-flying Grizzles. It is how Phoenix will have to beat them in the playoffs, it will just be harder shorthanded, but it is the only hand we have to play.