The Phoenix Suns played a hard fought game against the Los Angeles Clippers that turned ugly in the fourth quarter. The Suns had another slow start to the game, scoring only 16 points in the first quarter and falling behind seven points to the Clippers who scored 23.
However, the Suns bounced back with a terrific second quarter; scoring a total of 41 points behind the play of Marcus Morris, Goran Dragic, Alex Len, and Eric Bledsoe. The Suns were able to take a two-point lead of 57-55 going into the half.
The third quarter was another bad one for the Suns, much like the first. Phoenix was outscored by 14 points, shooting just 35% from the field and allowing the Clippers to shoot 60%, and scored 34. The Clips headed into the fourth quarter with a 12 point lead, up 89-77.
Also during the third quarter, Markieff Morris was given a technical foul after Matt Barnes was called for a personal foul. At first it seemed like Markieff was T'd up for arguing with Barnes, and that he would be allowed to continue playing, but Hornacek pulled him out of the game and sent him to the bench after talking to the ref and hearing that Keef was arguing with the official...on a call that they got the benefit of.
We didn't know it at the time, but this may have been another key moment of the game that could have once again had lasting repercussions.
The Suns once again responded with inspired play in the fourth quarter, sans Markieff, with some big three-point shots from Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. Eric Bledsoe also did a great job of attacking the defense and getting to the rim. At one point, the Suns pulled within two points of the Clippers, 96-94, with seven minutes remaining in the game, and it looked like the Suns could pull out another big come-from-behind victory.
But it wasn't meant to be.
After the Suns all but caught up with L.A., they completely imploded with missed shots, turnovers, and even missed free-throws. Late in the game, you have to wonder how much of a difference having a key player like Markieff, who has been not only a clutch shooter, but a stabilizing force, could have made. But we'll never know.
The Suns continued their slide downhill for the rest of the game, eventually waving the white flag and putting Archie Goodwin, Zoran Dragic, Reggie Bullock, and T.J. Warren in the game with around two minutes left.
The Suns ended up being blown out by the Clippers 120-100...Oh, what could have been.
After the game, Suns coach Hornacek was noticeably upset, the most I've ever seen him, at the podium. But he wasn't upset about the loss as much as Markieff picking up another technical.
"It’s driving us all crazy with the technicals. We’re going to get it straight, whether they like it or not." Hornacek continued, "We’re not just in this for this year, this is for the next few years and trying to be a team that in a couple years can try to win a championship and until we show these referees that we’re not going to argue and or continue to do this."
Hornacek also mentioned the Suns history with technical fouls and his resolve in doing whatever it takes to fix the issue.
"We had a stretch before that and then they went technical crazy and three or four more, then they did it again." He continued, "So something is going to have to be done; we don’t play them, we continue to sit them like this or we get new guys in here that want to win a championship."
Strong words from the coach after the game who seems intent on sending a message and establishing a long-term culture of players who know how to control their emotions on the court, and not cost the team because of a lack to do so.
Here is what the players had to say (Thanks again to Evan Wendt for editing the videos!):
Goran was upset with the loss, but he also made it a point to support his coach in his decision to bench players for technical fouls. Dragic was on the receiving end of a benching just last game for this very issue, but he understands that the players need to change this behavior if they are going to be a playoff team.
Isaiah mentioned that it's natural for a players' emotions to sometimes get the best of them. However, he also seemed to understand that Hornacek has to do what's necessary for the good of the team as well. Isaiah was also frustrated that they made a comeback but that some key mistakes down the stretch prevented them from getting the win.
Markieff didn't want to talk about the technical foul or the benching, but give him credit for makings himself available to talk to the media after what had to have been a frustrating situation for him. Markieff talked about having opportunities to win the game and get back in it at the end, but that even DeAndre Jordan's free throws were going in tonight.
Another game in the books...and another game the Suns need to put behind them. I have little doubt that the team will be hearing more from coach Hornacek about the technical foul situation, after how noticeably upset he was about the issue.
However, the Suns will have another chance to redeem themselves Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, and a win would sure do a lot to help everyone bounce back from a couple of tough losses that maybe could have ended differently.
Regardless, the team will have a couple of days to rest and then prepare for the Wizards before playing again on Wednesday.