|Suns' Rubio attempts to silence Grizzlies' Morant|
Rookie point guard Ja Morant's return from injury Monday gave Memphis a big lift.
It also ensured that two of the most effective and efficient point guards in the league will meet for the second time this season when the Phoenix Suns host the Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Morant had 26 points and a season-high three 3-pointers in a 110-102 victory at Golden State on Monday, his first game after missing four while dealing with back spasms that resulted from a collision with a court-side camera operator at Indiana on Nov. 25.
Suns point guard Ricky Rubio had 16 points and 14 assists in a 125-109 victory over Minnesota on Monday. It was his ninth double-double, the seventh in points and assists, and his third straight game with at least 13 assists.
Morant scored 13 of his points on 5-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter, and several of his makes came when the Warriors went under high screens, leaving him open looks from deep.
"They were just giving them to me," Morant said of the threes. "I don't know if it is a sign of disrespect or a sign of respect, but I'm going to take them take them every time. Make them pay."
Morant said he felt no ill effects from his back injury, adding, "just trying to get my wind back up and get in my groove."
Morant also had a team-high seven of Memphis' 29 assists as the Grizzlies prepare to finish a four-game trip in Phoenix. They had lost nine of 10 before beating Golden State.
"There is a lot of trust with (Morant) and when the ball is in his hand," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. "He is super unselfish and will make the right play."
Morant had 24 points and seven assists in Suns' 114-105 victory in their first meeting this season, when Rubio had 11 points and six assists.
Rubio has been the player who has made coach Monty Williams' "no-stick" offense flow. Rubio is tied for second in the league with an average of 9.2 assists, and he is averaging only 1.9 turnovers, the best ratio among primary ball-handlers in the league.
Rubio had only one turnover against Minnesota, his fifth game with at least 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers. LeBron James is the only other player in the league with as many as three such games.
"Everybody benefits from (Rubio's) ability to manage games, to manage play-calling situations," Williams said. "His ability to read coverages and find guys. ... I think he sees stuff before it happens. Most of the really good point guards do that. Our guys know if they run, Ricky is going to get them the ball."
The Suns have had 29 assists or more in their last seven games, their longest streak since the Steve Nash team did it from Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2007.
"He has that will to get his team over the hump," Williams said. "For me, he really helps me because usually when there's a stoppage in play and we have a side-out or a play call, usually he's already thinking of the play I want to call. For a coach, that's something that I value.
"And Ricky fights on defense. It's not just the assists or the pace he plays with. He's a guy that doesn't just give in defensively. He loves playing against the top point guards and any guard in the league."
--Field Level Media