The Phoenix Suns tip off a three-game trip looking to build upon a six-game winning streak when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
The Suns opened the season 1-3 when two of their first four games were on the road, before turning things around with their current six-game run that has included five home games.
Now it’s back on the road for seven of 10, beginning with a trip to Memphis, where the Suns have won three times in their last six visits.
Phoenix’s streak has been a team effort, led by Devin Booker’s 23.3-point average over the six wins and Chris Paul’s almost nightly double-double (15.3 points, 11.0 assists).
JaVale McGee has stepped in effectively for injured Deandre Ayton with 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a game over the last six, but the real surprise has been Frank Kaminsky.
Getting increased playing time with Ayton sidelined with a bruised right shin, Kaminsky had three double-figure scoring nights before exploding for a season-best 31 in Wednesday’s 119-109 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“Frank is having a hell of a two weeks, man, playing great basketball,” veteran teammate Jae Crowder observed. “He’s helped our club tremendously, picking up on the offensive end especially with playmaking ability to make plays and pass, shoot the ball and score. He just knows how to play the game, and our whole locker room knows that.”
Ayton, who had X-rays that were negative last week, is considered doubtful for the Memphis game.
Despite wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and twice over the Denver Nuggets, the Grizzlies have struggled to build any momentum this season. They have followed their six wins with losses on four occasions.
That said, they’ve been good at responding to defeats, going 3-1 after a loss.
They’ll get their fifth opportunity Friday as they were beaten 118-108 at home by the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday despite Ja Morant’s 32 points.
The good news for Memphis was Dillon Brooks’ ability to make his season debut after sitting out the first 10 games with a broken left hand. He went 26 minutes off the bench against the Hornets, hitting eight of his 17 shots and finishing with 20 points.
“Great first game for him,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins assessed afterward. “Just really made an impact on the game defensively. You just feel his intensity. Love the fact that he was just playing within himself and making the right plays.”
Friday’s game matches one of the league’s most productive offenses (the Suns are averaging 111.0 points) against one of its most porous defenses (the Grizzlies have allowed 114.2 points per game).
Brooks likely will get the defensive assignment on Booker for most of the night. The defensive ace held the high-scoring guard to just 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting when the Grizzlies won at home over the Suns last January.
Booker rebounded with 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting in a rematch the next month, a game the Suns won 128-97.
–Field Level Media