Suns at Spurs: This is Markieff Morris we’ve been looking for

Ultimately, the Suns are disappointed to come away from their first road trip of the year with only one win. Their defeat in OKC could be chalked up to Russell Westbrook’s unexpected return. They looked very strong and resilient in last night’s win over the Pelicans. And tonight, they executed for 47 minutes before falling apart on their final two offensive possessions and falling to San Antonio. In the big picture, they lost on the road to two of the best teams in the Western Conference by a combined 10 points, and did so without Goran Dragic, who has been hobbled since the third quarter of the Thunder game with an ankle sprain.

So what do the Suns take away from these games and their first trip together? This team is still young and still has many lessons to learn. One lesson is that Eric Bledsoe is fantastic. His fourth quarter against the Spurs not withstanding, Bledsoe finished this three game swing averaging nearly 22 points and eight assists per game on better than 50% shooting. Though he was beaten soundly by Tony Parker in San Antonio, Bledsoe was efficient from the field and had his first zero turnover game. This being his first year as a full time starter, he is gonna have quarters, games, and maybe even weeks where he is totally exhausted and not nearly this effective, but he’s capable of producing at somewhere near this level over the course of the year, the Suns have definitely found their franchise cornerstone.

But Bledsoe aside, the other big takeaway for Phoenix has to be the play of Markieff Morris. Morris was nothing short of spectacular in the first half against the Spurs. Over the first two frames, he scored 18 points in just 16 minutes. He went 9-of-10 from the field over that time, and his only miss was a three point attempt. He knocked down jumpers, drove to the hole, and had several really impressive scoring moves in the post. At various points in the game, every single Spurs’ reserve tried their hand at guarding Kieff. And with each new defender, he adjusted his approach and was effective. Against smaller guys like Kawhi Leonard, he moved into paint and got to the rim. When he was guarded by Boris Diaw or Tiago Splitter, he caught the ball away from the hoop and used his superior athleticism to get by. He ended the game with an impressive double-double, 23 points and 12 rebounds. His second half production was a bit limited, but the Spurs’ focus on him allowed his teammates a little bit more freedom offensively.

This was Markieff’s best game as a pro hands down. All of his flaws – falling in the love with the outside shot, poor shot selection, etc – seemed to have vanished. While this awakening may not last, it was his second good game in a row, a rarity when looking back over his box scores from the past two seasons.

At the outset of this year, it was thought Morris might start at the power forward spot. But now it appears his best role is as a sixth man/first big off the bench. Markieff’s combo of size and athleticism is going to make him a tough matchup for many opponents’ second units. It seems Coach Hornacek has found a way to deploy Markieff, and his brother Marcus, that will finally get the most out of both of them. The twins have both scored in double figures in consecutive games for the first time in their short tenure as teammates. With the second unit being conducted by the human speed machine Ish Smith, the Morris brothers can run up and down the floor and find ways to contribute outside of the halfcourt where they’ve been at best uncomfortable and at worst totally useless in their short careers. Though their size might seem to indicate otherwise, the Morris twins seem very at home playing up tempo, and it’s no surprise their recent success has coincided with Ish Smith taking ownership of the second unit in the wake of Dragic’s injury and Gerald Green’s promotion to starter.

What will happen to Phoenix’s rotation and new found chemistry when the Dragon returns? There’s no way to know. But what is clear is that Hornacek seems to have found something in bringing the Morris twins off the bench as a tandem, and just like the 2009-10 Suns, Phoenix once again has a loveable and effective second unit that will win them some games as the season goes along.

Tags: Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • Azbballfan

    Great, competitive game from the Suns

    Since when do the Morris twins put together two really good games in a row?

    Hopefully Dragic and Len will be back on Friday

    good games from alot of players, total team effort in a close loss

  • hawki

    Really nice game from Kieff…I commented a while back that the Mo Bros were best served coming off the bench in tandem.

    I think Goran should be kept out for at least another week if not 2….otherwise this ankle injury could drag on (no pun intended) indefinitely.

  • foreveris2long

    When a team can play competitive basketball on the road in tough places like OKC and San Antonio, I am inclined to say the Suns will sustain their competitive play. Those of you who predicted 25+ wins, props to you. The Suns got another late game education that they will learn from.

    Markief was incredible tonight. I have no idea where this post game is coming from. I am stunned to no end but props to Markief. Bledsoe got an education from Parker late which will benefit him later. Goodwin’s confidence is growing which is going to make him tough near the end of the season. Plumlee is showing he can have sustained success at the center spot. No shame in how the Suns played on this road trip.

  • JZ

    Effing SPURS!!! Always pulling clutch plays against Suns. When will SA start their rebuilding process? They’ve had a good 20 year run. This Suns team is so much better than last year. They’re going toe to toe with contenders until the last minutes

  • RudeCerveza

    Damn, Parker has really exposed Bledsoe’s lack of defensive focus. I generally don’t mind if a point guard who runs everything in offense takes a possession off in defense once in a while, because it’s physically impossible to fight every screen opponent throws at you… but this kid is wandering around like Nash used to and that kind of pisses me off.

    Good game anyways. I told you this is at least 30 wins team.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    Don’t troll Nash, he is the best PG ever!!

  • JZ

    The thing about Bledsoe is that he gets too caught up in trying to intercept passes which takes him out of his defensive position.

  • Smovas

    With the 11 pick of the 2014 draft, the Phx Suns pick…

    Courtesy of the Gambo & Burns show


    I am still not sold on the Morris brothers as viable time players.They both shoot way to much from the outside and show no toughness inside. I do not think anyone realizes how good Dragic really is. Bledsoe will still take a back seat because he does not play with the aggressiveness and all out effort that Dragic plays at. Bledsoe does look good , BUT TAKS TO MANY PLAYS OFF.We desparately need a true power forward who can help Plumlee with the rebounding and interior defense.

  • noitallman

    Bledsoe may take plays off, but the thing I like about him is that when he is focused and making effort, he can actually lock guys up. I have seen several defensive possessions where Bledsoe was brilliant in his ability to stay in front of his man or recover off a pick to disturb the ball handler.

    He needs to be given time and opportunity to grow and develop on both ends, not just offensively.

  • Scott

    When Bledsoe is facing a top quality PG who is a scoring threat, he needs to bear down on defense and not leave his man. It’s when he’s up against a weaker PG that he can play for steals. Probably playing against backup PGs for 3 years has given him a bad habit. He can’t play against most starting PGs that way.

    As for Markieff’s big game … where has this been all this time? This is what fans expected to see from him last year.

    I’m not complaining … but he waited till it was nearly too late before he uncorked himself. Maybe this is a sign that the new coaching staff is getting through to the Morris brothers and getting them to understand the effort level that is required in the NBA.

  • Robzilla

    nobody should ever think bledsoe is better than goran. I’m not trying to diss bledsoe, he can get to the rim effortlessly and can create his own shot, two things we’ve been lackings seemingly since amare left. However, the play with 12 seconds left last night highlighted bledsoe’s room for growth, where tony parker got the easiest layup of the night in the most important possession of the game. Goran would never let parker have a layup coupon like that. Not to mention the possession after that which ended with a semi-gross look from green wasn’t the picture of facilitating from bledsoe. Goran was needed there, as he will the whole time beldsoe is on the suns. Bledsoe is a budding star, but franchise conerstone? Goran does the heavy lifting, and his game corresponds with bledsoe and allow him to focus on what bledsoe excels at. Side note, markieff had some danny manning moves, my jaw dropped when he pulled those off so smoothly. Good for him, if he keeps its up, Frye as much i love him, will be moved this year. With the backcourt full of talent now, and the center spot seems to be locked down with youth, that leaves only the forwards spots to draft for this summer. I just hope that doesn’t means we tell Tucker to walk, he’s the new bruce bowen.


    That was by far the most inspired performance I’ve seen from either Morris. Keef was unstoppable which is surprising considering the competition. Would be thrilled to see them keep up the effort.

    It’s a little stunning to see how competitive this SUNS team is so far. Without their starting PG, the SUNS were in position to beat SA.

    Now we see Dragic’s value highlighted. Although Tony Parker is a tough cover for anyone not named LeBrawn, Dragic has the length, speed, and toughness to defend him well. Bledsoe did well for a while, but everyone knew TP would attack the paint in the final 5 minutes and Bledsoe was probably gassed at that point.

    Gerald Green plays hard but I get nervous when he’s making decisions with the ball in his hand. Kind of like the Matrix, Green is at his best when shooting or dunking rather than passing or dribbling.

  • john

    Just a note, LeBron couldn’t even do anything against TP. Great offense will always beat great defense, and TP is a brilliant offensive player. I hate him, but he’s good.

  • EBJM

    Oh great, I get to be John! How about a little perspective on Markieff?

    It is ONE game and the ideal game situation for him. We all know Diaw starts every season fat and out of shape. Tiaglo couldn’t push a fat and out shape Diaw out of the starting line-up despite being 7′-0″ to Diaw’s 6′-8″.

    Kwahi Leonard is Marcus’s size, a SF.

    Robin Lopez put up career highs of 30 points and 12 boards against Chris Kaman and the Clippers but he hasn’t even come close to backing that game up. How many years ago was it? Three? Four?

    Lets see at the MINIMUM the same results in the NEXT game before we start patting Markieff on the back, OK?

    Playing Denver at home will be a very interesting test for Markieff. The dysfunctional Nuggets moved Kenneth Faried into the starting line-up against the Spurs, meaning J.J. Hickson became his back-up.

    So Markieff will have the opportunity to prove to everyone he has figured it out because Faried is barely 6′-7″ and Markieff should punish him down low and Hickson is 6′-9″ and 242# just a tad bit smaller than Markieff but has played center so he doesn’t mind the physicality down low.

    A little six degrees of separation: Hickson on Robin’s rebounding;

    “It just rubbed me the wrong way some of the comments that were made by [Trail Blazers general manager] Neil Olshey,” Hickson explained to “I heard something to the extent of, ‘For the Blazers to be better, we can’t bring JJ back.’ That was one of the ones that really caught my attention. I was like, ‘wait, what?’ And they go out there and get a new center [Robin Lopez] and he has only three rebounds.”

    Hickson was referring to the Suns – Blazers game last Wednesday where Robin actually grabbed only TWO boards.

    Robin’s response: “He can say whatever he wants to say,” Lopez responded. “I’m a true center.”

    Hickson replies: “I know for a fact that L (LaMarcus Aldridge) doesn’t like to play center. He doesn’t like it. He just doesn’t. He’s an All-Star so he’s going to trump whatever. I had no problem playing out of position. I feel like I did it to the best of my ability. I was one-of-six guys in the league to average a double-double, so I think I did pretty good.”

    Hickson averaged about 13 and 10 playing out of position at center alongside of LaMarcus. Blazers traded for the 7′-0″ Robin and his previous season career highof 11 something/ 5.6 boards and I think 1 one and half blocks per game.

    Hickson seem to ignore the fact despite being a poor rebounder he is a far superior post defender than

    So we will see if Markieff has another monster game most likely matched up against the once high regarded Hickson who has almost “Markieffed” his way out of the league. Like Robin, Hickson has been well-traveled in his short career, 4th team in six seasons and Robin is on his third team already.

    Markieff you better bring it Friday night.

  • john

    You’re finally coming around, EBJM. :)

  • Azbballfan

    Yeah, Lopez never did anything close to his 30 point 12 board game again

    but anytime you see young players stretch a few good games together you have to think the morris twins might be finally having the light bulb turn on

    If i was McMiracle i would be on the phones right now seeing what i could get for the Morris twins

    their trade value may never be better than it is right now

    We waited way too long to trade nash and gortat and all we got back were conditional picks and some expiring deals

    nice, but not what we could have got for them had our management struck while the iron was hot

    i know people are going to be like

    “What are you doing? you cant trade them now! they are starting to get it!”

    thats my point, we have a TON of draft picks in the next 2 drafts

    something like possibly six in the next 2 drafts

    i wouldnt want to commit real money to two players who even at their best are probably sometime-starter-mostly-bench guys

  • NOitall

    I am in the camp that in order to even get excited about any Morris, they need to put a string of 20 games where they are consistently good [not even great - just good] to start jumping on their bandwagon. And on both ends of the floor.

  • Azbballfan

    i agree, Noitall

  • peps

    should be 11-2 when they meet the heat

  • Scott

    ^^ Yup. I’m not easily convinced, either.

  • Chad

    Loving that breakdown EBJM

  • EBJM

    Well the table is set for Markieff to star tomorrow night.

    Faried and and Hickson grabbed 17 boards combined but little else. 3-10 FGs and only 2 FT attempts 2 blocks, a steal and 3 dimes.

    Milsapp who played 34 minutes put up 29 with great percentages, 10 boards, five dimes, 2 steals and a block. Scott chipped in 4 boards in 6 minutes and the remaining 8 minutes was covered by Horford who dominated McGee.

    Markieff better come big or have the courtesy to retire after the game. No excuses tomorrow night, once again an ideal game match-up for him.

  • Voqar

    It’s kind of wild because I find myself expecting this team to win. They play reasonably solid defense and have a lot of energy. The bench may not have as refined of players but some of our bench guys pick the speed up even more.

    If they could play defense more consistently with fewer lapses/lulls and cut down on horrific turnovers (the number of times traveling, palming, stepping out of bounds, and other noob crap is getting called is ridiculous) they could maybe get some separation and not have to try to pull out such close games.

    It’s crazy. Last year our supposedly better team would get behind early and struggle most of the time while this team is much more consistent and holding on to leads they squander in the end, with the leads rarely growing due to self defeat via turnovers and relaxing on defense.

    Sadly Markieff will probably not score at all tonight and will score zero to 5 points for the next 3-10 games before having another all star level performance. If he could play ALL the time like he did against the spurs he’d BE an all star. It was as if his body was possessed by someone who can actually play basketball for a while there. He flashes the potential but most of the time I end up wishing he was on the bench.