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Suns Strokes: Marcus Morris comes off bench to fuel win over Jazz

After a run of eight straight games against opponents with better records than them, the schedule turned in the Phoenix Suns’ favor.

Or more specifically, Marcus Morris’ favor.

Morris hit his first five shots from the field on his way to a career-high 34 points in a 100-93 win over the Utah Jazz in front of sold-out US Airways Center.

Morris also grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds to record his first career double-double.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Suns (29-23), who remained tied in the loss column but one-game ahead of the New Orleans Hornets (27-23) overall for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Morris scored 24 first-half points, the best-scoring first half for any Suns player this season.

His 34 points came on 11-of-17 shooting, including five 3s, providing some much needed energy off the bench for a team that was playing its second game in as many nights.

The Suns led by 12 points at the half and by as many as 15 in the third quarter before holding off the Jazz (17-33), who have lost three straight and five of six.

Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors led Utah with 24 and 20 points, respectively.

THE GOOD

Marcus Morris scored 10 of his 11 first-quarter points in a 14-2 run to close the period. He made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a pair of 3s. Eric Bledsoe capped the run with a steal and fast-break layup to erase an 11-point deficit and give the Suns a 25-24 lead.

Marcus Morris continued his hot shooting with two more baskets to begin the second quarter. Later, he hit back-to-back 3s as part of a 17-2 run to close the period and allow the Suns to go into the locker room up 54-42. Morris finished the first half with 24 points — one off his career-high — on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in 17 minutes.

Marcus Morris also had a game-high nine rebounds through the first two quarters, tying a season-high and one shy of his career-high. All nine rebounds came on the defensive end.

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic had a hand in 16 of the team’s first 18 points in the third quarter. Bledsoe had nine points (on three 3-pointers) and two assists, while Dragic finished the period with three points and four assists, giving him a team-high six assists through three quarters.

Bledsoe finished with 15 points, six assists and a game-high four steals. It marked his second straight home game with four steals and his fifth such effort this season. Bledsoe has scored at least 15 points in five straight games and in 10 of his last 11 contents.

Starting his first game since Dec. 14 at Oklahoma City, Miles Plumlee recorded six points and four rebounds to go along with two steals and a blocked shot. The steals mark matched a season-high; he had done it seven times before.

THE BAD

A 4 a.m. arrival from Portland took its toil on the Suns early, as the Jazz scored the game’s first seven points and opened up a 22-11 advantage with 3:52 to play in the opening quarter. Hayward scored 11 points, hitting 5-of-8 field goal attempts, including one 3-pointer.

Two 3s in less than 90 seconds by Chris Johnson briefly allowed the Jazz to retake the lead, 38-37, at 5:42 of the second quarter. Johnson’s offensive outburst allowed him to surpass his season scoring average of 5.9 points per game. The Jazz hit 5-of-8 from 3 in the first half.

Hayward and Favors each scored eight points in a third quarter in which the Jazz outscored the Suns 29-22. That included an 11-4 ending to the period with the Suns committing three turnovers. In total, the Suns turned it over seven times leading to eight Jazz points in the quarter.

Rudy Gobert had himself a fourth quarter, leading the Jazz in points (six), rebounds (four) and assists (two). His final basket and last assist each brought Utah to within seven, the closest they would get in the period. He finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Gerald Green missed four of his five field-goal attempts, including all three shots from beyond the arc, in 13 minutes, the lowest amount of court time of any of the nine Suns’ rotation players.

The Suns are the NBA’s second-best fast break team at 19.6 points per game, but were outscored in that category 18-15.

STAT OF THE GAME

44-43: The Suns enjoyed the slightest of rebounding advantages against the Jazz. They were out-boarded 52-34 in a 118-91 loss in the first meeting of the season on Nov. 1.

HE SAID IT

“We needed (it). I give these guys a lot of credit. We didn’t get home until almost four o’clock last night, so for them to come off that game last night, get home late and to come in here with the energy they had, it was good. They were mentally tough, I thought. That’s a pretty decent team with the (big) guys they have. We ended up out-rebounding them. I thought our effort was great.” -Suns coach Jeff Hornacek

NOTED

Marcus Morris, who outscored the starting unit 24-23 in the first half, became the first Suns player to record at least 30 points and 10 rebounds off the bench since Danny Manning had 35 and 10 in a game at Portland on Nov. 14, 1997.

The Suns made 14-of-27 (.519) 3-pointers Friday. They improved to 13-0 in games in which they’ve shot at least 50 percent from beyond the arc since Hornacek became head coach.

The Suns snapped a three-game losing streak against the Jazz and evened the series at 1-1, with one more meeting in Phoenix on April 4.

UP NEXT

Once again, the Suns’ stay at home was a brief one.

The Suns travel to Sacramento to play the Kings on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns are 1-1 against the Kings this season, losing at home in double-overtime early in the season and winning in Sacramento 115-106 the day after Christmas. In that game, Marcus Morris scored a team-best 20 points off the bench as the Suns extended their winning streak to a season-long five games.

These two clubs have split the season series at two games apiece in 2012-13 and 2013-14.