After beating Phoenix in overtime last week, Memphis opens a three-game trek Wednesday night against a Suns team hoping to snap its longest losing streak in nine seasons.
Memphis (14-4) pulled out a 96-89 victory at New Orleans on Friday but couldn’t keep up the following night, falling 93-83 to Atlanta. Mike Conley matched a season high with six turnovers for the Grizzlies, who were outscored 32-13 in the third quarter and limited to 14 bench points, matching their lowest total this season.
“We looked like a team that was tired,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “The schedule is tough. … It’s just part of the distractions and part of the things that you go through in the NBA. Unfortunately we played a really good team tonight and we weren’t able to overcome all the things we needed to overcome.”
The Grizzlies could have an easier time against the Suns (7-15), although they needed OT - not to mention 38 points and 22 rebounds from Zach Randolph - to beat them 108-98 last Tuesday. Memphis also won 104-93 at home April 11, but has dropped 10 of 12 in Phoenix.
The Suns are desperate for a win anywhere. They’ve been outscored by an average of 12.9 points and outrebounded by an average of 6.8 boards during a seven-game losing streak - their longest since an eight-game slide in February 2004.
“We just have to find our identity,” swingman Jared Dudley said.
Their woes continued Sunday with a 98-90 loss to Orlando in the opener of a five-game homestand. Phoenix forced 18 turnovers but couldn’t slow down the Magic, who shot a season-high 51.9 percent and went 11 for 17 from the field in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a real frustrating loss, real disappointing loss,” said coach Alvin Gentry, whose team was outrebounded 44-29. “You know, we are playing spot basketball. We play good for two minutes then we’re bad for seven, then we’re good for five and we’re bad for three. … You just can’t win any basketball games in this league when you play that way.
“It’s not anything complicated. We just have to play better. We have to be able to rebound better, we have to make better basketball decisions.”
Getting Goran Dragic back could also help. The Slovenian point guard, averaging team highs of 15.1 points and 6.4 assists, was held out Sunday due to the flu, leaving his status for this game unclear.
While Phoenix is giving up an average of 103.1 points to rank near the bottom of the league, Memphis is among the best in holding teams to just 91.2 per contest.
The Grizzlies, who visit Denver and Utah this weekend, have already faced all three opponents on this trip, and Conley said that may help.
“We get a good look at them and see how they play us and it allows us to prepare for them a little bit better,” he said.