In a matchup of underachieving teams, the Suns look to snap a four-game losing streak when they host the Grizzlies on Saturday.
After falling two wins shy of reaching the NBA finals last season, Phoenix (1-5) is off to its worst start since losing the first 13 games of the 1996-97 season. The Suns’ current skid is their longest since dropping six straight from Jan. 12-21, 2005.
Phoenix’s high-scoring offense is usually enough to make up for its subpar defense, but it hasn’t worked that way this season. The Suns are among the NBA’s leaders in offense with 108.0 points per game, but are allowing a league-worst 111.7.
Phoenix lost 119-112 to Dallas on Thursday night, allowing the Mavericks to shoot 54.8 percent from the field.
The slump is likely to lead to changes in Suns coach Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. Although he didn’t name anyone, D’Antoni lashed out at the team’s effort.
“We’re done messing around and we’re going to play guys that are going to play hard,” D’Antoni said.
The Suns have held a lead of at least nine points in all five of their losses.
“We’re going to figure out what is wrong and we are going to fix it,” D’Antoni said.
A bright spot for Phoenix Thursday was Amare Stoudemire’s second straight start. Stoudemire, trying to come back from surgery on both knees, had 16 points and eight rebounds in a season-high 34 minutes.
“I felt good,” he said. “My legs are under me. Still strong and still energetic.”
Suns guard Raja Bell missed the game with bruised ribs, but said he hopes to return for this contest. Phoenix is 0-6 without Bell since he signed with the team prior to last season.
Memphis (1-3), which boasted the league’s best defense last season, is holding opponents to an average of 88.0 points in its last three games. The Grizzlies, though, are averaging just 87.3 points a contest in that span.
Memphis shot 40.0 percent from the field in an 86-80 loss to Houston on Tuesday night.
“The question I would ask is whether the defense is letting you down or the offense is not producing,” Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. “If you play every night and allow 86 points … you should win.”
Some of Memphis’ offensive woes can be blamed on the absence of All-Star forward Pau Gasol, who led the team with 20.4 points and 8.9 rebounds last season. Gasol is out indefinitely after breaking his foot while playing for Spain in the world championships this summer.
Stromile Swift played his first game for the Grizzlies this season on Tuesday, scoring a team-high 15 points. Knee and ankle injuries forced him to miss most of training camp and Memphis’ first three games.
“You have to remember that Stro has only had one real day of practice,” Fratello said. “Having him give us any minutes and numbers is good. He’ll get his strength back.”
Memphis won the first two meetings with Phoenix last season before losing 108-102 on the road on Feb. 8.