Suns Strokes: Morris scores 21 points in return, Suns fall to Wizards
The fact that Markieff Morris made his Valley return on April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, was fitting; poetic justice if you will.
Morris acted foolish several times leading up to his exit, and perhaps the Phoenix Suns were foolish to think the relationship could continue even after his twin brother was shipped to Detroit.
The Morris-Suns marriage officially dissolved Feb. 18—minutes before the trade deadline—after nearly five years.
Six weeks later the pair reunited.
And it was Morris who had the last laugh, at least on this night.
He scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds to help the Washington Wizards to a 106-99 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday.
The announced crowd of 17,345 booed Morris from the moment he was introduced to each time he touched the ball.
“They booed my brother so I figured they’d boo me, too,” he said, referring to Marcus. “You could see how I played, it didn’t affect me. I’ve been booed a hundred thousand times, way worse than that. It doesn’t affect me.”
It was Morris’ highest scoring game with the Wizards (37-39), who swept the season series against the Suns, becoming the 14th team to do just that this season.
The Suns led 79-77 entering the fourth quarter but were outscored 29-20 including a 17-4 stretch in which they turned the ball over six times and went four-and-a-half minutes between made baskets.
John Wall (22) and Bradley Beal (21) each topped the 20-point mark, while Marcin Gortat had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Wall flirted with a triple-double with 10 assists and eight rebounds.
The Suns (20-56) had four players score in double figures, led by Mirza Teletovic. He had 24 points off the bench plus a season-high 12 rebounds, giving him his second double-double of the season and the fifth of his career.
P.J. Tucker (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Tyson Chandler (11 points, 15 rebounds) also posted double-doubles, but it wasn’t enough as the Suns suffered their fifth straight loss.
The Suns started Ronnie Price at point guard with Brandon Knight out due to injury.
Solid starts for both Devin Booker and Tucker, who combined for 16 of the Suns’ 26 first-quarter points. Booker had nine and Tucker seven as they each hit a 3-pointer. Together, they shot 7-of-13, while their teammates were 2-of-12, including a 1-of-6 showing from Teletovic. The Suns’ 26-25 lead marked their second straight first-quarter advantage, something they had not done in back-to-back games since Feb. 2 and 4.
Despite the poor shooting effort, Teletovic, who missed the game at Milwaukee because of illness, went into the locker room as the Suns’ leading scorer with 11 points at halftime. He scored eight on 4-of-7 shooting in the second quarter and added two more rebounds, giving him seven, second-most to Chandler’s game-high 10. It was Teletovic who ended a run of five straight Suns misses with a lay-up at :09.9.
With six points in the third quarter, Chandler hit double figures in scoring with 11. Combine that with his 14 rebounds and the 15-year veteran recorded his 17th double-double of the season and second in as many games. Chandler was the second-best Suns scorer of the period as Teletovic had seven. He made a 25-foot 3-pointer (his first and only made shot from beyond the arc in the game) plus 4-of-5 free throws.
The Suns finished with 56 rebounds as a team, which was their 19th game of 50 or more rebounds this season, the most by a Suns team since they also do so 19 times in 1992-93. This was also the Suns’ ninth game with 55 or more rebounds, their most since doing so 12 time in 1989-90. The Suns were a plus-12 on the boards, including a 17-9 advantage on the offensive glass, six of which belonged to Chandler.
Trailing by eight seven minutes into the game, the Wizards went on a 14-5 run to re-take the lead, 25-24 at :34.9. Wall accounted for 12 of the Wizards’ points as he scored seven and assisted on a pair of jumpers, including a Jared Dudley 3-pointer. Wall finished the first quarter with a game-high 12 points on five-of-eight shooting (he made two 3s) to go along with a rebound, three assists and two turnovers.
Once again looking at an eight-point deficit, the Wizards went on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 48 at 1:04 of the second quarter. Morris began the run with a six-foot jumper and closed the run making 3-of-4 free throws. He finished the period with a team-best seven points, shooting 2-of-3, giving him 11 at the break. Wall led all Wizards players with 16 points, yet still trailed 52-50 through the first two quarters.
This time it was a seven-point deficit that the Wizards stared down with a 17-7 run to re-take the lead, 75-73 at 1:51 of the third quarter. Morris, Beal and Otto Porter all hit 3-pointers as the Wizards found their stroke from the outside with five 3s on 11 attempts in the period. Morris made two and finished with 10 points. The eighth ranked 3-point shooting team entering the game was 9-of-22 through three quarters.
During the deciding fourth-quarter 17-7 Wizards run, Ramon Sessions scored seven points. He made a 15-foot step-back jump shot, a seven-foot floater and 25-foot 3-pointer. Meanwhile, the Suns committed six turnovers—by six different players—and made only one field goal, a Booker eight-foot jumper. Booker, by the way, finished the game with 14 points, ending a seven-game streak of 18 or more points.
STAT OF THE GAME
7: The Suns turned the ball over seven times in the fourth quarter leading to eight Wizards’ points
HE SAID IT
“You analyze the game and our team gave the best effort the could,” interim head coach Earl Watson said. “Going down the stretch we have to develop and we have to allow our young guys to develop to be closers or go-to guys. You take this game, John Wall: he was a closer, he made tough shots, he made all the plays down the stretch. The game before that, Chris Middleton did the same thing. What we told our young guys today is, in order to grow, you first must have the opportunity to fail.”
Price had eight assists to establish a new season-high, surpassing his six-assist effort on March 9 vs. the New York Knicks.
Knight did not play because of a sports hernia—“It’s sore again,” Watson said pregame—missing his 24th game of the season.
Jon Leuer also missed the game, his eighth of the season, with a right ankle sprain he suffered playing 2-on-2 the day before.
The Suns close out this mini two-game homestand hosting Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and the Utah Jazz on Sunday, April 3. It’s an afternoon tip-off, 3 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season with the Jazz looking for the series sweep, their first since going 4-0 against the Suns in 1999-2000.
In the most recent matchup, the Suns failed to reach 70 points for just the fourth time in franchise history, as the Jazz dominated the second half to pull away for a 103-69 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 17.
The Suns trailed by only three points after the first quarter and by eight points at halftime, but they stared down a 17-point deficit going into the final period. The Jazz opened the fourth quarter on a 25-4 run to blow the game open and take their largest lead of the game at 96-58 with 5:30 remaining. Only a Chase Budinger step-back jumper with :02.9 to play allowed the Suns to avoid setting a franchise record for fewest points in a game.
Knight led the Suns with 17 points, while Len posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Overall, the Suns have won 12 of the past 22 in the series, including nine of 13 in Phoenix.