Why Marcus Morris’ Career Night Is Important

Feb 6, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris (15) dribbles against the Utah Jazz during the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 100-93 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris (15) dribbles against the Utah Jazz during the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 100-93 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Phoenix Suns need a big bucket late in games, they usually turn to Markieff Morris, the 13th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.

But when their starting five came out sluggish early on against the Utah Jazz last night, and the Suns desperately need some energy to avoid losing control of a game that would’ve dropped them to ninth in the Western Conference standings, they turned to the 14 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft…twin brother Marcus Morris.

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Mook wasn’t drafted by the Suns, but given the growth they’ve seen from these talented twins, Phoenix has to be feeling pretty good about reuniting them at the NBA level.

When Marcus first checked into the game with 5:13 remaining in the first quarter, the Suns trailed 17-10 and quickly gave up a three. From there, the Suns outscored Utah 15-4…with Morris recording 11 of those 15 points.

Phoenix had a 25-24 advantage heading into the second quarter, but the barrage didn’t stop there. By halftime, Mook had 24 points and nine rebounds off the bench. He made eight of his 11 shots and drilled five of his six three-pointers to carry Phoenix to a 54-42 halftime lead.

The Suns had played in Portland the night before, so on a night where the team didn’t get back to Phoenix until 4 a.m., Morris gave the Suns the boost they needed to avoid falling out of their playoff spot.

“You need lifts like that,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It can’t always be on the starting guys. Our bench needs to give us that lift every once in a while.”

If by “lift,” you’re talking about 34 points and 12 rebounds — both career highs — then yes, Marcus Morris gave his team a lift last night.

“I made a couple shots early on, felt like I had a good rhythm,” Morris said. “Bled, IT and those guys did a good job of finding me. I just made shots.”

Except that’s not all Morris did. The 34 points were great, and much-needed against a very good Jazz defense, but his contributions on the glass shouldn’t be overlooked either.

The last time Utah played Phoenix, the Jazz handled them in a 118-91 drubbing that saw the Suns out-rebounded by 18. Last night, behind Morris’ career game, the Suns actually out-rebounded Utah by one…which is even more impressive considering Alex Len was out with an ankle sprain and the Jazz frontcourt of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker is a fairly formidable one.

“I just stayed on the glass,” Morris said. “That was a big emphasis before the game, staying on the glass because you know how big they are.”

Miles Plumlee — filling in for the injured Len at starting center — and Brandan Wright combined for six points and eight rebounds in 46 minutes. Mook had 34 and 12 in 33 minutes off the bench.

I don’t point this out to diminish the impact of Plumlee and Wright. But those two were expected to carry the load in the frontcourt with Len out and instead, it was the unlikely hero Marcus Morris who did the job…inside and outside.

Morris’ energy and sharpshooting off the bench prevented the Suns from yet another slow start and there’s no doubt he carried them to the win. One game out of an 82-game season isn’t any reason to start declaring Morris an All-Star snub, but last night’s career game taught us quite a bit about Mook and this young Suns team.

With the Feb. 19 trade deadline rapidly approaching, most Suns fans are hoping general manager Ryan McDonough can work his magic and swing some groundbreaking trade to not only solidify Phoenix as a playoff team, but also to turn them into a contender for the future.

After dabbling in a few hypothetical trades and coming to the conclusion that standing pat at the deadline isn’t the worst thing that can happen, Morris’ big night reinforces the point that maybe all this team needs is a little more time to mature together.

The Suns are the third youngest team in the league and are already fighting for a playoff spot in one of the most brutal Western Conferences the NBA has ever seen. Normally we expect Markieff Morris to have the big scoring nights like this, but Marcus just proved he’s more than capable as well.

We know the Suns want to re-sign Goran Dragic this summer and keep the young core of Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, the Morris twins, Alex Len and possibly Isaiah Thomas intact. Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren, Reggie Bullock and Tyler Ennis may all be waiting in the wings depending on what happens as we approach the trade deadline.

Nobody should be expecting Mook to go for 30, or even 20 a night. This isn’t a game of some breakout superstar in the making. But that’s an extremely young core on the rise you’re looking at right there. Kieff has already developed into one of the most effective and versatile offensive power forwards in the NBA, and last night proved the Morris twins can rebound with anyone when properly motivated.

But even from the not-so-long-term vantage point, last night’s big game from Morris also comes as comfort for Suns fans concerned about the playoff chase with Len out. On a night where Plumlee and Wright weren’t dominant down low, the Suns had someone step up and do what needed to be done.

“We have deep rotations; I think Marcus was great tonight,” Dragic said after the win. “He gave us that extra leap that we needed…everybody’s ready. I think that’s the most important thing if you want to be successful. When you get those minutes you need to show that you can play.”

This team still has problems closing out tight games. They’re not competing for a championship this year and they may not even hang on to their current playoff spot. But I’ve been preaching patience approaching the deadline and games like this make it a little easier to do so.

Marcus Morris’ career night is the exception, not the rule, but it also serves as a microcosm of why this young team is so surprisingly resilient and why the doubters do so at their own peril, because as these Suns are starting to show, any one player is capable of stepping up on any given night.

The next step is consistency, but if this trend can continue through Len’s absence and return, don’t count Phoenix out of the playoff hunt just yet.

Next: Phoenix Suns: Setting Expectations For Trade Deadline

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