Raja Bell took the advice to heart.
Bell hit six 3-pointers and scored 29 points and the Suns added to lowly Memphis’ road woes by beating the short-handed Grizzlies 105-87 Monday night.
“This was one of those nights where we were out in transition and I was going to get a lot of looks,” Bell said, after missing his season high in points by one and his career best by two. “I recognized that early and just tried to shoot them when I was open and my teammates delivered the ball.”
Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns.
“Raja Bell is one of the most underrated players in the league and Stoudemire is an All-Star,” Memphis coach Tony Barone said.
The Grizzlies, the only team eliminated from playoff contention, fell to an NBA-worst 17-54 and 5-30 away from home, also the league’s worst mark.
Phoenix, the Pacific Division champions for the third straight season, is only one win away from matching last year’s win total of 54.
Stoudemire shot 12-of-17, hitting from both inside and outside. Bell finished 6-of-8 from 3-point range and the Suns were 11-of-22, outscoring the Grizzlies 33-3 from behind the arc.
“That was a beautiful shooting performance,” Phoenix’s All-Star guard Steve Nash said of Bell’s prolific production from long distance. “He really had his stroke going and it was a lot of fun to watch.”
Suns coach Mike D’Antoni also admired Bell’s scoring burst.
“Raja has been here two years, and has shot extremely well,” D’Antoni said. “You can tell his whole being is better when he shoots well. We have to have a shooter out there and with Steve and Raja we have it.”
The Grizzlies were without two of their usual starters—forward Mike Miller, the NBA leader in 3-point field goals made (202), and guard Damon Stoudemire. Both were sidelined with patella tendinitis, Miller in both knees, Stoudemire in the right knee.
The Suns never trailed in the first half, opening their biggest lead, 58-43, just before intermission on a tomahawk dunk by Stoudemire.
Stoudemire and Bell, who hit all four of his 3-point attempts, each had 14 points at halftime.
“We lost Raja Bell a couple of times and he was on fire,” the Grizzlies Chucky Atkins said of Memphis’ defensive lapses.
After leading only by four points, 31-27, at the end of the first period, the Suns took command by outscoring the Grizzlies, 27-16, in the second quarter.
Jones, with eight points in the second period, was the only effective player for Memphis, finishing with 12 by the half.
Phoenix padded its lead to 62-43 early in the third quarter, but a 10-0 run, then three straight baskets by Gasol and a slam by Alexander Johnson, helped the Grizzlies get within 71-63. But the Suns closed the period with a 9-1 burst.
“When you play those guys, it’s going to be a game of runs,” Atkins said. “They’re going to get hot for a second and then they cool off for a minute and then they got hot again. We’ve got to be able to maintain that cycle. We had a couple of bad shots, a couple of bad turnovers and allowed them to get some run outs.”
Memphis never threatened in the fourth period, as the Suns built their advantage to as many as 22 points and coasted to the finish.
The Suns’ James Jones made both his free throw attempts, extending his consecutive streak to 44 makes, the longest such run in the league this season. … The Grizzlies, having lost at Utah Saturday night, continue their six-game road trip with games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle, Portland and Golden State before returning home April 3 to face the Suns again. … Memphis is the league’s only team that hasn’t won consecutive games this season. … The Grizzlies have a 3-18 road record against Western Conference rivals, including nine consecutive losses. … The Suns must win at least 10 of their 12 remaining games to break the franchise record of 62 victories in the regular season, accomplished twice—in 1992-93 and 2004-05.