MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Suns started their four-game road trip with a victory — and that’s all that mattered.
Amare Stoudemire scored 27 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter to hold off a rally by the Memphis Grizzlies, and Phoenix had to put in a full night’s work to come away with a 116-111 victory over the worst team in the league Tuesday night.
“We just wanted to get the first game on this road trip, regardless of how we got it,” said Phoenix forward Shawn Marion, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“Oh boy,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That would be o-h b-o-y. They played well. It was a dangerous game.”
“It’s hard to lose when you play hard, but at least you know when you come out next time, that’s the effort you’re going to get,” Memphis interim coach Tony Barone said. “These guys have not quit.”
Phoenix held a 14-point early in the third period, but behind Gasol the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 29-18 in the quarter to make it close.
Stoudemire continually blunted Memphis’ rallies. The Grizzlies were within 102-101 with 7:09 left, but the center, who was saddled with four fouls, scored 11 straight points for Phoenix after re-entering the game.
“I figured we needed some dominance at that point,” Stoudemire said. “They were trying to take over. They gained the momentum, and I figured, with me coming back in there, we could get the momentum back and take it from there.”
Memphis still was within striking distance in the final minute when Warrick missed a layup with about 25 seconds left and the Grizzlies down 112-109. Memphis players and Barone grumbled that a foul should’ve been called on Stoudemire, sending Warrick to the line.
“You’ve got to finish that play down the stretch,” Warrick said. “It would have been a big bucket for us, but unfortunately, it just didn’t fall for me. …The refs didn’t call it, so it wasn’t a foul.”
The Suns, who shot 59 percent in the first half, led 71-59 at intermission behind 20 points from Barbosa and 14 from Marion.
Warrick scored 12 points as Memphis shot 51 percent from the field, even though leading-scorer Gasol missed six of his seven shots.
With two of the league’s top eight scoring teams shooting above 50 percent, the score mounted quickly. Memphis also is getting a more intensity out of its younger players such as rookie Tarence Kinsey and point guard Junior Harrington.
“I think our young guys are getting more comfortable and confident out there,” Gasol said. “And they are producing much more because they’re getting a lot of playing time.”
Gasol finally got untracked in the third quarter, scoring 13 points and helping the Grizzlies cut the Phoenix lead to 89-88 entering the fourth.
But down the stretch, the Suns showed why they are looking forward to the playoffs, while the Grizzlies are looking forward to the draft lottery.
“We wanted to put them away early, win by 40 or 50 points and get them out of there so we could rest up,” Stoudemire said. “But Memphis was like: ‘Nah. We’re not having it tonight. We’re going to come out here and compete.’ And that’s what they did.”
The Grizzlies were making their first appearance at home since March 22 after a six-game West Coast road trip. Memphis will play four of their final six games at home. … Miller and Stoudamire have missed the last five games, Miller with patella tendinitis in both knees and Stoudamire with the same ailment in his right knee. …The Suns’ 71 points were five short of their first-half high for the season. They had 76 against the Grizzlies on Jan. 15. …Phoenix connected on 50 percent of its shots outside the arc (13-of-26). That included Nash hitting all three of his shots from long range. He was 4-for-4 from the field on the night and also hit all four of his foul shots. Nash has a team leading 48 double-doubles.