MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- With the playoffs out of reach, the Phoenix Suns are giving their younger players a chance to see more time.
The first outing with that philosophy didn't go well Friday night, not because of the reserves, but the lackluster play of the Suns starters. And the Memphis Grizzlies, who have been in a youth movement all season, took advantage.
"We're playing to get better," said Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who scored 17 points. "No matter who we are playing, we're trying to get the win. I don't think guys have packed it in for the season."
The same might not be said for the Suns, who were playing their first game since being eliminated from the playoffs earlier this week. The lack of enthusiasm led to their lowest-scoring effort since Alvin Gentry took over as interim coach on Feb. 16.
While shooting 47 percent, Phoenix committed 22 turnovers, only three short of its season high. Memphis had 19 turnovers and shot 49 percent.
In most cases, the Phoenix reserves logged more minutes than the regulars, and by the fourth quarter, Gentry gave the starters the rest of the night off.
"We're trying to get the young guys some experience," Richardson said. "We were a little bit careless with the ball, and we have to learn from that. Right now, the most important thing is to get these young guys to play and get ready for next year."
The game featured the league's top scoring team in the Suns, with a 107.6 average, against a Grizzlies team that is the NBA's lowest at 99.4 per game. But it was the Grizzlies who ran away with the victory, despite some early sloppy play.
"We started out the game with poor focus," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "Phoenix was running all over the place. I think they thought Phoenix wasn't going to play because they were out of the playoffs.
"It was just a game that didn't have a lot of NBA focus."
By halftime, the turnovers had grown to 13 for the Suns and 11 for Memphis. The Grizzlies took a 55-47 advantage to the locker room, controlling the boards 26-16. The Grizzlies would end the game outrebounding the Suns 45-37.
The misplays continued for the Suns as O'Neal even missed a dunk in the early stages of the second half. Meanwhile, Memphis converted from 3-point range to extend the lead to as many as 17 before carrying an 84-68 lead into the fourth.
"We wanted to come out and set a tone and let the young guys get some playing time," Barnes said. "We did that in the first half. We came out a little sloppy in the third, and [Memphis] really took advantage of that."
Conley had 13 in the third, missing only one of his six shots in the period, and Memphis was on its way to snapping a two-game losing streak. It also was Memphis' largest margin of victory ever over Phoenix.
But the Suns didn't seem too concerned about that. The focus seems to be on limiting minutes for the starters in the final games and seeing if the youngsters can gain experience. Richardson said it makes sense.
"I don't think we're going to a youth movement," the Phoenix guard said, "but those guys have been supportive of us through the season, and it's only deserving that they get the playing time.
"These games really aren't meaning anything for us. Even though we want to win them, just let [the reserves] go out ad get some minutes."
For the Grizzlies, the entire season has been a learning experience, as Memphis normally has three rookies in the starting lineup. They are starting to understand a bit more what it takes to play in the NBA.
"It really feels as though we could play anybody," Gay said. "We might as well just go out and just play hard. We have nothing to lose. Our backs are not against the wall. We're just playing free."
The Grizzlies had not beaten the Suns since Dec. 17, 2005. The victory gave the Grizzlies 23 wins, including 15 at home, surpassing the totals in both categories in each of the previous two years. ... Suns F Grant Hill is the only Phoenix player to appear in all 79 games this season. If Hill can play in the final three, it would mark the first time in his 14 seasons that he has not missed a game. ... There was some pregame talk about a trade deadline deal that was discussed between the Suns and Grizzlies that never took place. According to The Commercial Appeal, the Suns were going to send Amare Stoudemire to Memphis for the core of the Grizzlies' youth movement -- starting forward Gay, point guard Conley, and sixth man Warrick. Oh, and a first-round draft pick. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was against the deal. "You can make a trade like that, and it looks good on the surface," Hollins said, "but we're not a winning team. So, you're trading your core nucleus for one player, whos probably not taking you over the hump." ... With his third rebound of the game in the third quarter, O'Neal moved past Charles Barkley for 15th place on the all-time list for rebounds. O'Neal had only three rebounds in the game, leaving him at 12,547. Next on the list is former St. Louis Hawks star Bob Pettit with 12,849.
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