Marcus Morris hits game-winner, other regulars show crunchtime chops in win over T-Wolves
While everyone on the Suns summer league roster is getting an opportunity to showcase their skills in Las Vegas, members of last year’s full-time roster are proving why they earned their respective spots in the first place.
Their collective experience and confidence helped Phoenix erase a 18-point halftime deficient, culminating in a steal and a fading, contested buzzer-beater by Marcus Morris that won the game at the buzzer, 91-89.
“Those guys, Marcus and Markieff, PJ also, you can throw Kendall in there, they really knew that ‘hey, we need to buckle down,’” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek.
The play, taking place on a side out-of-bounds set with just 3.3 seconds remaining, originally had the guards running off screens, hoping to get free long enough for a clean shot.
Minnesota’s initial defensive effort led to Marcus Morris taking the ball outside the 3-point line. He drove right, rising above his defender and fading slightly to get the shot off just inside 3-point line.
It hit all strings as time expired.
“I told them early that I’ve been hitting a lot of the clutch shots in practice,” Morris said. “I’m happy that ‘H’ (Hornacek) gave me the ball and I came through.”
Morris twins team up in the clutch
Trailing 49-31 at the half, the Suns once again regrouped behind energy, effort and the Morris brothers. The two accounted for the majority of the team’s points in the third quarter, often operating as a tandem.
Marcus hit an elbow jumper to start the half. Markieff followed with a drive and a score. Marcus scored again, this time pivoting around his defender, rebounding his own miss and hitting the second-chance attempt.
Markieff kept the surge going, denying Minnesota’s attempts to pass the ball inside and helping cause a 24-second shot clock violation. He was rewarded on the next possession, taking a pass from his brother and nailing a 3-pointer, plus the foul.
A couple possessions later, Markieff took a lead pass from Kendall Marshall and broke free for a dunk. Then it was Marcus’ turn, getting deep position for an inside hoop before hitting a 3-pointer later in the quarter.
“Our energy early on wasn’t matching their energy,” Marcus Morris said, explaining the change between the two halves. “Second half, that was the main thing in the locker room, just come out with energy.”
Marshall, Christmas provide needed outside threat
With the Timberwolves honing in on the Morris twins, defensively, the Suns needed others to step up on the perimeter.
The help came, courtesy of former lottery pick Kendall Marshall (13 points, six assists) and summer league nomad Dionte Christmas (16 points). The two combined for six of the Suns’ nine 3-pointers, with three of them coming in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix complete its comeback.
Christmas played 29 minutes, second to Marcus Morris’ game-high 31. The one-time Boston Celtic showed a quick, confident trigger from outside hitting a spot-up 3-pointer and a deep jumper in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix narrow the gap.
Ironically, Marshall’s shooting proved to be the greatest assist of the night, setting up the scoreboard for Morris’ game-winner. He sandwiched two 3-pointers around another trey from Markieff Morris, the second of which came in pull-up fashion on the fastbreak. The shot tied the game with under a minute left.
“Kendall can shoot it when he’s out there and he’s left open,” Hornacek said. “We always talk to him about him getting his shot up. He’s going to prove he can make those shots and all of the sudden they’re going to guard him a whole lot harder. Today he shot it with confidence.”
Two free throws put the Timberwolves back up by two, but Marshall again came through, whipping a one-handed pass through traffic to PJ Tucker, who converted the inside basket to set up another tie score and, a few seconds later, Marcus Morris’ game-winner.