The Suns were without their leading scorer Monday night after Eric Bledsoe was inactive following an early exit from Sunday’s game with soreness in his knee.
Consequently, the NBA’s third-highest scoring team was held to 84 points — their second-lowest output of the season.
“I think it’s an indication that we need Eric. The combination of him and Brandon has been good. I think going into last night’s game we were the third in the league in offensive rating,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday.
Aside from missing the 23.2 points that Bledsoe averages each game, Hornacek said that without Bledsoe as a ball handler the Suns were limited offensively.
“Last night we had a turnover problem,” Hornacek said. “Maybe if Eric’s there and we have more than one guy handling the ball that the focus isn’t on one guy and we won’t have as many turnovers.”
Averaging 16.8 turnovers heading into the game, Phoenix had 28 on Monday. Eight of those came from Brandon Knight, who averages just 3.4 turnovers per game.
Bledsoe’s absence also impacted the Suns on the other end of the court. While Hornacek said he’s confident in his small group, the Suns struggled when the Spurs went small on them defensively with Patty Mills and Tony Parker.
“We might just have to look at going big against some of these teams that try to go small and see what happens with Tyson and Alex, because the last couple games they’ve been kind of taken out of the game,” Hornacek said. “The importance of Eric last night would’ve been giving us a little better chance with our small group to really get something going.”
Despite the loss, Hornacek had some positive takeaways from the game, namely Markieff Morris, who led the Suns with 28 points and eight rebounds.
“We saw the Markieff that we know. He was really good,” Hornacek said. “He attacked the basket, he was making his jump shot, he was kind of letting it come in the flow and he helped us stay in that game. We had so many turnovers, we should’ve probably lost by 30, but he kept us in there and he played really well.”
Hornacek said there’s one thing in particular the Suns have been stressing to Morris.
“He’s gotta have some fun playing,” Hornacek said. “I don’t think you can ever reach your total ability if you’re not 100-percent happy. We’ve talked to him about different things ‘hey maybe when you get between the lines just have fun playing basketball.’ He’s been good all year he just hasn’t played great up until these last three games, but now we feel that he’s getting to that point where he’s playing with a little bit of a purpose and playing a little bit happy.”
While the loss was a disappointment, Hornacek said it’s important for him to keep it in perspective.
“We play 82 games so if you lose a couple games in a row, you can’t go crazy. If I looked at the standings last night late, this is how crazy the NBA is this year,” Hornacek said. “I think we’re fifth in the West at 7-7 so I think it’s going to be a crazy year in terms of the balance.”