NBA Basketball

Suns riding high entering matchup in Memphis

When the surging Phoenix Suns visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, it will mark second leg of back-to-backs for both teams.

Phoenix opened its weekend set on Friday with a 132-114 victory at New Orleans. The Suns went into the fourth quarter trailing by 11 points but blasted the Pelicans 41-12 in the final period.

The result was Phoenix's 10th win in the past 12 games.

Jae Crowder's six 3-pointers powered Phoenix to a season-high 22 treys, and his 20 points led a 55-point effort from the Suns bench.

"The lift that E'Twaun (Moore), Cam Johnson and Jae gave us was huge tonight," Suns coach Monty Williams said of the reserves' fourth-quarter play. Johnson finished the night with 13 points, and Moore complemented his seven points with aggressive defense.

The outstanding fourth quarter marked a turnaround from Phoenix's previous outing, a 128-124 loss to Brooklyn on Tuesday. The Nets produced a 40-24 fourth-quarter advantage en route to snapping the Suns' six-game winning streak.

On Friday, Deandre Ayton kick-started Phoenix's rally, following a Crowder trey by scoring six consecutive points. The Suns' defense, which came into the game ranked fourth in the NBA, allowing 108 points per game, held New Orleans to just two points for the first 5:20 of the period.

"I told the guys, that kind of defense travels," Williams said.

On Saturday, Phoenix will oppose a Memphis side coming off its own strong defensive showing.

The Grizzlies shut down the Detroit Pistons for a 109-95 victory, Memphis' lowest yield since holding the Cleveland Cavaliers to 91 points on Jan. 11. That was also the last game in which the Grizzlies allowed fewer than 100 points.

De'Anthony Melton came off the bench to account for four of Memphis' 12 steals against the Pistons. Grayson Allen had three thefts and Desmond Bane added two as the Grizzlies forced 21 turnovers overall.

"Those guys were big for us early in the game, especially in the first quarter when we built that big lead," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of Melton and Bane contributing to a 35-17 opening period. "Melt doing his normal Melt things, getting his hands on a lot of balls, and I thought he did some really good things in one-on-one defensive situations."

Memphis earned a third victory in its past four games and second straight. The Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-113 on Wednesday.

Ja Morant posted a triple-double of 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds against the Thunder to aid an All-Star Game campaign that Jenkins touted in his postgame press conference on Friday.

"Ja's very deserving of being an All-Star reserve," Jenkins said.

Last season's Rookie of the Year, Morant missed eight games from Dec. 30 through Jan. 13. Since his return, Memphis is 8-6 and has climbed back to over .500 on the season, despite dealing with a bevy of other injuries.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow have yet to play this season, and Dillon Brooks -- one of the Grizzlies' top scorers at 15.8 points per game -- was scratched from the lineup Friday. Brooks is day-to-day due to right thigh soreness.

Phoenix comes into Memphis at full strength and has had much of its core starting lineup intact in pursuit of the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2009-10.

Starters Ayton and Mikal Bridges have not missed a game while Chris Paul has missed just one. Leading scorer Devin Booker (24.4 points per game) missed four games last month due to a hamstring strain.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 20, 2021

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