Suns Reserves Bring Heat-Check Potential

by Matt Petersen

One of the biggest benefits to having Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic healthy has been domino effect to the Suns bench, particularly when it comes to offensive production.

Bledsoe’s return two weeks ago from a bruised shin shifted Gerald Green back to the bench to join the Morris twins. Now, whenever Head Coach Jeff Hornacek motions toward the bench, he knows there’s a good chance at least one of his reserves will get hot in short order.

Marcus Morris was the most recent flame-thrower off the pine, pouring in 22 points on a scorching 10-of-13 shooting effort. Just one game earlier, it was Markieff with the hot hand en route to a 25-point, 11-rebound night coupled with similar efficiency (11-of-14 FG).

“Some nights, some shots aren’t going to fall for everybody,” Marcus Morris said. “We’re just trying to find the hot man. Whoever that is coming off the bench, that’s who we’re going to ride with.”

Green (12.9 ppg), Marcus (11.0 ppg) and Markieff Morris (13.0 ppg) have combined for 10 games of 20 points or more this season despite all of them averaging well under 30 minutes per game. They make up the third through fifth highest scorers on the team, making the Suns’ bench as offensively potent as its starting unit.

When that scoring potential roars to life, Hornacek has no problem leaving them on the floor during critical stretches.

“When they’re hot like that, we stay with them,” Hornacek said. “If they’re having an off-night, that’s alright. We know their teammates will pick them up. Guys will go through good times and they’ll go through bad times. They’ve just got to stick with it and not let their confidence get down. It gives us options to come off the bench when one of those guys does get hot.”

“Some nights, some shots aren’t going to fall for everybody. We’re just trying to find the hot man. Whoever that is coming off the bench, that’s who we’re going to ride with.”

— Marcus Morris

Hornacek has stayed true to that philosophy, finishing the last two games with Markieff at center and Marcus at power forward instead of starters Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye. This comes after the sans-Bledsoe stretch that saw Frye become Dragic’s temporary partner-in-crime in crunch time.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about winning,” Marcus Morris said. “If it was opposite and those guys were finishing games and we were winning, it’s all about that. It’s not about points or about stats. It’s about exceeding expectations. I think we’re doing a great job of that right now. “H” [Hornacek] is doing a great job coaching us along and all the other coaches are doing an excellent job.”

The players’ collective ability and willingness to produce in measured opportunities has enabled Hornacek to keep everyone fresh. With the Suns relevant but still fighting for playoff positioning in the brutal Western Conference, the Suns’ head coach sees the bench’s production as a way to prevent fatigue from setting in before the playoff race begins in earnest later this season.

“We still want to try to lower minutes a little bit,” Hornacek said. “Thirty-six [minutes] isn’t bad. I think these guys are young enough to play that. We don’t kill them in practices, that kind of stuff. I think they’re alright there, but if we can play them a little less, it might help us for later in the season.”