As we've seen more often than not in recent games, the Suns came out ready to play and got off to a great start. They went inside to Marcin Gortat early and often in the first quarter, and he made his first seven shots including a variety of moves from dunks to jumpers to hooks. He missed his next shot but went hit one more to close out the first half with 17 points on 8-10 shooting.
The Suns built up a lead in the first but Memphis made a run when Dragic and Gortat took a seat. However, the run against the bench couldn't be blamed on Kendall Marshall, who recorded his career-high in points in the first half alone with eight on three long jumpers (two 3-pointers, one toe-on-the-tape 2-pointer).
Zach Randolph, who has been in a major slump fro the Grizzlies, got off to a good start as well, putting up 12 and seven in the first two quarters, while Jerryd Bayless was allowed to take a handful of open free-throw line jumpers to get himself going, and he finished the half with 14 points on 6-9 shooting.
Most of the statistical catagories were a wash in the first half and the Suns found themselves down just two at the break at 52-50.
The third quarter was an absolute mess, as the two teams couldn't throw it in the ocean. Phoenix and Memphis combined to make just 15 field goals in the period and the Suns lost the quarter 15-19. Phoenix trailed 71-65 heading into the fourth quarter and it looked like the same old story was going to play itself out. But Goran Dragic, who only scored two points in the first three quarters after getting into foul trouble, refused to let that happen.
The sloppy play continued into the fourth quarter, but the Dragon bared his fangs and put the team on his back. Beginning at the 7:07 mark with the Suns down 77-76, Dragic proceeded to go off and was responsible for the next 17 of the final 19 points for the Suns. He kicked it off with back-to-back 3-point plays on drives to the basket, hit Marshall for his third 3-ball of the game and then pulled off another old-fashioned 3-point play. Then he found Jermaine O'Neal for a dunk, used some fancy footwork and great patience to get a bunny, got to the free-throw line for a pair and then hit a pull-up jumper after a sick crossover.
It truly was a masterful performance, and as I watched I couldn't help but have flashbacks to this.
In Game 1 of the season series in Memphis, the Suns held a lead for most of the second half and only succumbed in overtime when Zach Randolph caught fire for one of his best offensive games of the season.
In Game 2 in Phoenix, the Suns beat Memphis on a last-second stop-and-twist layup by Goran Dragic that was, at the moment, the biggest win on the young-ish season.
Now the Grizzlies are all kinds of discombobulated since trading away one of their best players and notes Suns killer, Rudy Gay, for Detroit's Tayshawn Prince last week. In the first game with the new guys, Memphis barely squeaked by Washington.
"I was worried," coach Lionel Hollins said. "You never know. We had new players on the bench, so we had more people to work with. But you never know how it is going to work out when you have new guys for the first game."
For now, Jarryd Bayless is starting alongside Tony Allen and Mike Conley on the wing until Prince settles in to the new team. That makes for a small, quick back court and could, potentially, allow P.J. Tucker to guard Conley at the point while Dragic takes on the quicker but less physical Bayless. Mike Conley is now a scorer, averaging 17 shot attempts in the two games since Gay's trade.
While the season series and the potential wing matchups might appear promising to Suns fans, do not forget that the Suns are still only 4-20 on the road - worst in the West.
Lately, the Suns have returned their hold 'em and fold 'em ways in the second half of road games, hanging their heads once the home team gets a little second-half momentum. After keeping a lead in Sacramento in interim head coach Lindsey Hunter's debut, the Suns have folded in the second half in San Antonio, Dallas and Golden State.
Quotes out of the locker room following the Golden State sounded eerily similar to quotes all season: once we got down, we hung our heads (paraphrased).
No longer on Memphis: Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Marreese Speights
Lakers play at New Jersey tonight after barely beating Detroit on Sunday, who were still waiting for Jose Calderon to get cleared and were missing Tayshawn Prince. Lakers needed Detroit to miss three straight easy shots to seal the 1-point win.
Lakers may be winning some games lately, but they still don't look like a good team.