The Phoenix Suns are starting to pile up hardware this season as Jeff Hornacek was just named the Western Conference Coach of the Month. Expect more accolades for this team before the 2013-14 season winds down.

Markieff Morris led off by garnering Western Conference Player of the Week honors back on November 11th and now it is his coach's turn for some kudos.  Hornacek has been able to get the best out of all of his players this season, not just Markieff, as they are all playing at career best levels while the Suns have left preseason predictions in the dust.

Hornacek becomes just the third person (Larry Bird and Larry Drew) in NBA history to win both player and coach of the month honors and the first ever to win both as a member of the same team.

He also becomes the first person not named Larry to accomplish the feat.

Jeff won Player of the Month honors in December of 1991 by averaging 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game while leading the Suns to an 11-1 record.  Hornacek steered the Suns to a 10-3 record this time around, but did so while silencing critics that surmised the Suns might crumble after an unexpected 9-8 start.

After a great month of December the Suns stand at 19-11 headed into tonight's game against the Memphis Grizzlies.  This mark ties their best start since 2009-10, but that team lost its next game and went to 19-12... which means a win tonight would give the Suns their best record through 31 games since the 2007-08 season.  The Suns head into the game winners of two straight, with four double digit victories in their last five games.

Hornacek's record through 30 games is also the second best in franchise history behind Paul Westphal, who started off 24-6 while leading the Suns to an NBA Finals appearance in the 1992-93 season.  Hornacek becomes the sixth head coach of the Suns to win the Coach of the Month award along with Cotton Fitzsimmons (three times), Westphal, Frank Johnson, Mike D'Antoni (four times) and Alvin Gentry (twice).

The NBA named Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek the Western Conference Coach of the Month for December, and it’s fitting that it comes the day his team takes on the Memphis Grizzlies. The Suns...

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Since the Grizzlies crushed the Suns by 19 with a backup front line, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Suns have risen into clear playoff contention while the Grizzlies have fallen back in what might be a lost season.

Last time we saw the Memphis Grizzlies, they blasted the Suns by 19 points behind double-doubles from bigs Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos, plus another 23 and 9 from deep backup big man Ed Leuer. Just as starting center Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph missed the game, so did the entire Suns team.

But that may just have been the best game of the season for the Suns because it was served as a wake-up call for the team. Since then, the Suns have won 10 of 12 games and taken over the 5th best record in the Western Conference.

The opponent

Memphis, meanwhile, has fallen on hard times.

The Grizzlies have won only 4 of 13 games since drumming the Suns, a victim of their poor defense and offense despite getting Zach Randolph back for that entire stretch. On the surface, their defense looks okay (and their offense worse) only because they play at the slowest pace in the league. In terms of points per game, their offense is 26th and defense is 6th. But in terms of points per possession, their offense is better (17th) while the defense suffers (24th).

The defense was better in the first month of the season for Memphis, but has fallen off considerably. Once rated 15th in efficiency when they last faced the Suns, Memphis has dropped to 24th now.

All this has happened despite Zach Randolph in the lineup, supposedly making the Grizzlies much more dangerous than starting Ed Davis.

Randolph, though, has long been a Suns-killer routinely putting up 20+ points and 10+ rebounds - and sometimes doubling those numbers - when he faces the Suns.

The Suns

Trying to rebuild the home court advantage is going well (though the arena is still 20+% empty). The Suns have won 11 of 15 home games this season, including 6 of their last 7.

The offense has been cruising. After averaging only 96 points per game last year, the Suns are now putting up 103.7 per game for the season and have scored 100+ points in 16 of their last 21 games.

The defense hasn't been bad either, up to 13th overall in defensive efficiency (points per possession) and 11 spots better than tonight's opponent, the Grizzlies.

The stats


These teams could not be much different. The Grizzlies play at the slowest pace in the league while the Suns play at one of the fastest. The Suns are better on offense and defense alike.

The lineups


The key matchup

As always, any key matchup in a Suns game is whoever plays against the two point guard tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

The last Memphis game, Eric Bledsoe had just returned from that 8-game absence due to a bruised shin. Bledsoe was terrible in that game against Mike Conley, so he will have to be better tonight.

The last two Suns opponents have countered with a two-point guard attack of their own to terrible results. Philadelphia played Tony Wroten alongside Michael Carter-Williams in a 14-point Suns win, while the Clippers tried Darren Collison alongside Chris Paul in a 19-point Suns win. Look for the Grizzlies to try to beat up the Suns guards with Conley and SG Tony Allen, but if that doesn't work well don't be surprised to see Jarryd Bayless out there a lot in Allen's place next to Conley.

In the Suns only two losses in 12 games, to the Spurs and Warriors, Dragic/Bledsoe have been beaten soundly. Once by San Antonio's size and then by Golden State's splash.

The prediction

This could potentially be a tough matchup for the Suns, despite Memphis' poor season to date.

Memphis can play perimeter D with the best of them between Conley and Allen, which can make life difficult for Bledsoe and Dragic. And then down low, Zach Randolph could go off on the Suns like he always has in the past while the other bigs could easily dominate like they did last month.

It's either going to be a Suns blowout or a low-scoring nail-biter.

I predict the Suns will feel extra focused since that 19-point loss earlier this season, and put a pasting on the Grizz.

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSA The Las Vegas odds-makers set the Suns over/under win total at 19.5 for this season. If you bet the over then you are sitting pretty as the Suns enter the 2014 calendar year...

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It was painful for fans, maybe even hopeless considering Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver wasn’t under their good graces during a good chunk of the Steve Nash era. Although the franchise...

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