In a stunning display of skill and resilience, the Phoenix Suns, led by Devin Booker's season-high 40 points, soared past the Memphis Grizzlies with a decisive 110-89 victory in Friday's NBA In-Season Tournament clash. Despite missing key player Kevin Durant due to right foot soreness, the Suns showcased their depth and team spirit, with Eric Gordon contributing a notable 20 points to the win.
This victory marked Phoenix's sixth consecutive win, a streak ignited by Booker's return from a calf injury. Booker's performance, 15 of 21 from the field and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, was pivotal in compensating for Durant's absence.
"You can't replace what [Durant] brings to the court. His scoring ability. His versatility on defense. It’s going to take a lot of extra from everybody else,” Booker remarked post-game. For the Grizzlies, Santi Aldama led with 21 points, followed by Derrick Rose's efficient 17, missing just one of his nine shots.
However, their efforts couldn't counter the Suns' momentum, as Memphis suffered their third consecutive loss and continued their winless streak at home. Adding to their woes, the Grizzlies are still reeling from the absence of Ja Morant, who is serving a 25-game suspension, and an injury list that has necessitated the signing of guards Shaq Harrison and Jaylen Nowell on 10-day hardship contracts.
Suns' Resilient Rally
The Suns' victory brought their In-Season Tournament record to 3-1, trailing behind the West Group A-leading Lakers. Phoenix's performance was particularly impressive given the additional absences of Bradley Beal and Drew Eubanks.
Yet, they demonstrated a remarkable ability to rally, with Jordan Goodwin and Grayson Allen each chipping in 14 points, and Goodwin scoring eight straight points in a crucial fourth-quarter stretch. Coach Frank Vogel praised Goodwin's performance, noting his growth and the importance of his contribution on this pivotal night.
"He’s had some stretches where he’s struggled with his shot making. So to see all of it come together for him was a great night,” Vogel said. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are grappling with their own challenges.
Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr., usually reliable scorers, could only muster 19 points between them. "When you’re down bodies, everything is a lot more critical. You can’t make little errors," lamented Jackson.
The Suns' triumph, underpinned by Booker's exceptional scoring prowess, not only cements their position as serious contenders in the tournament but also highlights their ability to overcome adversity and shine even in the absence of key players.
As Vogel aptly put it, "The guy’s just a professional scorer. He is a big reason we are having this six-game win streak."