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Grizzlies, Suns meet in showdown of West heavyweights

Sportsnaut
Dec 27, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies are the two hottest teams in the NBA, having won a combined 15 straight games between them.

The league-best Suns (62-14) and Grizzlies (54-23) will look to continue their respective torrid stretches at the other’s expense on Friday when they meet in Memphis.

Phoenix recorded its ninth consecutive win and matched a franchise record in victories on the season in Wednesday’s 107-103 triumph over the Golden State Warriors. The Suns’ record was set by the Charles Barkley-led 1992-93 team and matched by the Steve Nash-guided 2004-05 club.

“I’m unbelievably proud of our players and our staff and I’m proud to be a part of Suns history in this way,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said.

Said Western Conference Player of the Week Devin Booker: “It means a whole lot. Being here seven years now and just learning more and more about the franchise and the organization and the people that have came before us and now to be up there with those ones, it feels good.”

Booker and Mikal Bridges scored 22 points and Deandre Ayton collected 16 points and 16 rebounds on Wednesday to send the Suns to their eighth straight road win. Phoenix, which boasts a 31-6 record away from home, needs to win its final four road games to eclipse the Warriors’ record of 34 road wins set in 2015-16.

Booker, who averages a team-leading 26.4 points per game, scored 17 points in the Suns’ 119-94 victory at Memphis on Nov. 12. The three-time All-Star erupted for 30 in the rematch on Dec. 27, however Ja Morant made a last-second basket to power the Grizzlies to a 114-113 win.

Morant, however, has been sidelined with a knee injury throughout Memphis’ six-game winning streak.

The Grizzlies, in fact, haven’t missed a beat with Morant in street clothes, posting a 19-2 record without their All-Star guard. Morant is expected to be re-evaluated in another week.

Tyus Jones scored 25 points on Wednesday as Memphis captured the Southwest Division title and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 112-111 win over San Antonio.

“That’s definitely an accomplishment we want to celebrate as a team, as a franchise, as an organization,” Jones said of the Grizzlies’ first division title. “That’s something that we wanted to accomplish (and) reach this year. It’s one of a few goals we have. Being able to check that off the list, we’re going to enjoy that.”

Jones sank 10 of 21 shots from the floor and matched a career high by making five 3-pointers.

Dillon Brooks finished with 21 points, marking the fourth time in the past five games that he has scored at least 20.

“It was good for everybody, especially for me because they want to start ramping up my minutes,” Brooks said.

Desmond Bane, who had 16 points on Wednesday, is 21 for 35 from 3-point range in his past five games.

Bane made just 4 of 13 shots from the floor to finish with nine points in the first encounter versus Phoenix. He followed that with 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting — including 6 of 11 from 3-point range — in the rematch on Dec. 27.

–Field Level Media