PHOENIX — The Suns will unveil their sixth different starting lineup this season with Marcus Morris getting the start at small forward Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yes, the change is out of necessity, but, no, it has nothing to do with the team’s recent play. Phoenix has lost two straight and three of four overall.
The Suns are forced to make the rare change to their five-man unit after the NBA suspended P.J. Tucker for his role in the dust-up between him and Blake Griffin of the Clippers on Monday.
“It puts a little wrinkle in what we have to do, but guys have to step up and maybe win this one for P.J.,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Tucker has played and started all 60 games this season. However, he’ll sit out game No. 61.
According to the league’s release Tuesday, Tucker was suspended one game without pay for “elbowing (Griffin) in the chin” midway through the fourth quarter.
“The NBA has their ways of looking at things,” Hornacek said. “When they see the elbow up high, I think, it’s automatic. But I still think it wasn’t even a foul on him. A guy takes you down to the ground; it’s a natural reaction to get the guy off you. It’s unfortunate that we got penalized for it.”
Tucker was unavailable for comment after shootaround.
Morris, meanwhile, will make his first start of the season.
“Just got to come in and just play my game. Nothing really changes,” he said. “Just come in and be solid. Come in and continue to be aggressive, continue to play defense and just give the team some boost.”
Morris has done exactly that with his play recently. He’s scored in double figures in a career-long six straight games, averaging 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 26.9 minutes off the bench.
“He’s done a good job. He’s deserved that opportunity (to start),” Hornacek said.
This game begins an important stretch for the Suns, who currently sit one game behind eighth-place Dallas in the Western Conference.
The Suns (36-27) close out March playing seven of 11 games against teams with losing records.
“If we want to be a playoff team, they’re games that we need to win. And it’s as simple as that,” Hornacek said. “If we want to make that push to try to get in, this is a good stretch for us to try to prove that.”