Suns Recap: Dragic Gets Revenge In Heated Contest

Mar 2, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) fouls Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) fouls Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Had Brandon Knight and the Phoenix Suns been able to triumph over Goran Dragic and the Miami Heat, the headline could have practically written itself. Phoenix’s Knight In Shining Armor Slays The Dragon.

Unfortunately for the Suns, even with early foul trouble playing the role of knight in shining armor, the Suns had their hands full just keeping players on the floor. Funnily enough, the flaring tempers had nothing to do with Dragic’s first game against his former team.

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In a game that had featured three ejections, two flagrant fouls and six technical fouls, the Suns struggled on the road against a Heat team that had lost three of its last five games, falling 115-98 in a game the Suns will want to forget. Markieff Morris, Alex Len and Hassan Whiteside were all ejected in the heated contest, while Dragic missed most of the game due to foul trouble.

In the opening period, it looked like Goran Dragic was going to try and do too much to thwart his old team, picking up two quick fouls in the first 3:30 of the game. He sat the rest of the first quarter, a slow affair with a total of 16 team fouls, while the Suns built a 24-23 lead behind eight early points from Markieff Morris.

In the second quarter, however, Dragic returned on a mission to make his point. In the first four minutes of the second quarter, the Dragon pushed the tempo and drew fouls in transition to put up eight points and four assists. He quickly picked up his third foul on an iffy blocking foul call against Marcus Thornton, sending him back to the bench.

However, the Suns weren’t able to capitalize on Dragic’s foul trouble, falling behind 55-39 thanks to 13 turnovers, Eric Bledsoe picking up his third foul early in the second quarter and allowing their opponent to shoot 57.5 percent from the floor.

Hassan Whiteside had a big first half with 11 points and four rebounds, while Dwyane Wade came to life in the second to give Miami a 62-48 advantage heading into the half. Tyler Johnson was also a spark for the Heat off the bench, chipping in nine first half points.

Alex Len had 10 points and eight rebounds at the break, while Keef led the Suns in scoring with 13. Between the turnovers, surrendering 39 second quarter points (a season high for Miami) and Suns players slipping and sliding all over AmericanAirlines Arena, it was not a great first half for Phoenix.

In 74 seconds of action, Gerald Green racked up two fouls and one turnover, prompting head coach Jeff Hornacek to yank him out of the game pretty quickly. Archie Goodwin got five first half minutes, Marcus Thornton also got five minutes and the Suns played everyone but Reggie Bullock in the first half.

In the third quarter, things didn’t get much better for the Suns. Three minutes into the period, Keef — who already picked up a technical foul in the first half to tie him with Russell Westbrook for the league-high mark — fouled Goran Dragic hard on a fast break opportunity and send the Dragon tumbling to the ground.

Keef went for the ball and the foul didn’t seem to be malicious, but the officials felt otherwise and upgraded the foul to a Flagrant 2, disqualifying Morris from the game. Morris swiped at the ball and got Dragic with the body, but the ejection seemed fueled by the recent story lines more than anything else. Gerald Green picked up a technical foul on the ensuing possession as well.

However, those outbursts may have been the jolt of energy the Suns needed, as they quickly cut the lead to nine with a 6-0 run that saw Dragic pick up his fifth foul and head to the locker room not long after his hard fall. But the chippy play didn’t stop there.

A few plays later, Hassan Whiteside got his second poster over Alex Len. Like the first time, Whiteside came down on Len and held on to him a little bit on his way down. The second time, Len took exception to the insult and pushed Whiteside off of him. Whiteside responded by going for Len’s knees with a tackle that probably would have made the Miami Dolphins proud:

Len’s shove was enough to get him ejected, while Whiteside was also tossed for his picture perfect tackle. A few players later, Marcus Morris was fouled by Henry Walker and took exception, picking up a technical for getting in Walker’s face. Walker’s foul was ruled a Flagrant 1 and he received a technical as well.

The Heat held an 85-74 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Suns made an early push to cut the lead to single digits, but then the nightmarish night got worse for Phoenix when Michael Beasley and Tyler Johnson started taking over, scoring 11 straight points to extend Miami’s lead to 12.

P.J. Tucker carried Phoenix in the fourth quarter, trying to keep his team within striking distance in the middle of Johnson and Beasley’s run. Tucker scored nine of the Suns’ first 11 points in the period and hit a three to cut the deficit to seven with six minutes to play.

Trailing by 10, the Suns were buried by a Dragon dagger when Dragic buried a three to extend Miami’s lead to 102-99 with just over four minutes to play. Dragic scored eight of 10 points for Miami that extended Miami’s advantage to 17 and put the game away, twisting the knife a bit deeper on a night where nothing went right for the Suns.

Bledsoe led the Suns with 20 points, while Tucker added 20 points and 14 rebounds as he played most of the night at the center spot. Len had 10 points and 11 boards in 27 minutes before he was ejected.

The Miami Heat were led by Johnson’s 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting off the bench. Dragic finished with 21 points, Dwyane Wade added 16 points and nine assists and Hassan Whiteside had 17 points, 10 boards and two blocks in 26 minutes before his ejection.

Beasley added 12 off the bench.

The loss dropped the Suns to 31-30, 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Heat game kicks off a four-game road trip for Phoenix, with contests against the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers coming up.

Next: Eric Bledsoe: The New Leader Of The Phoenix Suns

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