One had to expect the Suns would come out with a little more life after that roll over job against the Spurs Saturday night... especially after Markieff called out the fans for THEIR effort after the loss.
The energy turned to... frustration... turned to... anger... turned to... another blowout loss.
After being as composed as a corpse in the previous game the Suns somehow lost their marbles in this one.
P.J. Tucker (20 points, 14 rebounds) played tough (clean) basketball and Eric Bledsoe finally decided to show up (18 second half points), but Tyler Johnson (26 points) played out of his mind and Goran Dragic got his revenge despite struggling with foul trouble and spending time in the locker room after a flagrant foul from Markieff Morris.
Markieff continues to be a cynosure of negative attention.
So there's that.
Miami rolled to their second highest point total of the season in a 115-98 romp.
It took Hassan Whiteside all of 27 seconds to block his first shot of the game (against Markieff Morris). Alex Len and Whiteside are extremely long individuals. The two centers were going after each other and both had a couple baskets in the early going.
Markieff also started strong, possessed of a piercing gaze and steely resolve that was galvanized by his harsh criticism of the listless fans back in Phoenix. Morris led all players with eight first quarter points.
The Suns failed to capitalize on opportunities to stretch their lead by missing some wide open looks from three. The shots were there, they just weren't falling.
Super Cool (Michael Beasley) entered the fray with 1:44 left in the quarter. Suns GM Ryan McDonough undoubtedly considers Beasley the best former Sun on the Heat. Surprisingly, only 11 Miami players made it onto the court in the first quarter.
Score: Suns 24, Heat 23
Goran Dragic was back on the court after sitting early with two quick fouls. Dragic scored Miami's first six points in the period and the Heat were suddenly up 32-26. The Suns decided to talk things over.
Not to be outdone by Erik Spoelstra, I noticed that Jeff Hornacek had also punched 12 time cards. Was it participation ribbon night?
The first half code word for the Suns March With Us - Owner For A Day contest was "frost." That would have been much more apropos for Saturday night's shellacking. At least the winner didn't have to be the owner this day and go on the radio to backpedal for his loquacious power forward.
Just when Miami was starting to roll, though, Marcus Thornton (I told you Hornacek was playing everyone) baited Dragic into this third foul. Surely the Heat would struggle without their fearless leader. Or not.
Of course Markieff Morris got a technical foul. I'm sure it was probably my fault in some way.
Play was getting pretty sloppy and frenetic... suddenly Beasley caught an alley-oop and Miami was up 10 (42-32). It was a pretty crappy alley-oop, though, probably because Beasley was involved.
The Suns 11th turnover of the first half was a gift wrapped steal for Dwyane Wade (his fourth in the first half), who went unchallenged for a dunk to put Miami up 53-39. Whiteside dunked without jumping to stretch it to 18 before Brandon Knight ended an eight point blitz. The Suns actually hit three straight from deep, but that barely put a dent in the Miami lead.
Miami scored a season high 39 points in the quarter.
It felt like more.
Score: Heat 62, Suns 48
Halftime did something the Suns couldn't do during the second quarter... slow down the Miami Heat. The start of the second half was fairly vapid until Markieff took a hard foul against his former teammate when Dragic was streaking for a fast break layup. Morris was given a flagrant two for his trouble and was politely asked to leave the court.
Then Gerald Green joined the fun. You get a tech... and you get a tech... and you get a tech.
Dragic picked up his fifth foul (in only 10 minutes) just moments later and joined Markieff Morris in the locker room... they probably didn't go to the same locker room... presumably from the spill he took earlier and his previous back issue.
Then all hell broke loose.
Whiteside came down on Len after a dunk and whacked him in the head with his arm. Len took exception to the unnecessary contact and threw Whiteside to the ground. Then Whiteside employed a wrestling take down.
Whiteside instigated the scuffle and Len stood up for himself. Ultimately, ejecting both players was probably the right call.
I bet you didn't think Marcus was going to get a tech next, did you?
Henry Walker, who is somehow a rotation player for the Heat right now, picked up a flagrant one for the hard foul that drew Marcus's ire. There was still a basketball game being played... sort of... and at the end of this carnival of absurdities the Suns were still down by just a manageable nine points (79-70).
That was a very long quarter of mostly poorly played basketball.
Score: Heat 85, Suns 74
If the third quarter was a wrestling match the start of the fourth was mud wrestling. Neither of these teams was winning a beauty pageant tonight.
P.J. Tucker was feasting on the glass (14 rebounds in the game) with the big guys in the locker room playing dominoes. He was also carrying the load on offense, scoring nine of the Suns first 11 points in the period.
The Heat were actually running their offense through Beasley on the block. Sadly, it was working.
Dragic made his way back to the court at some point and checked back in with just under six minutes remaining.
After Wade beat Marcus on a jump ball Dragic drained a three from the top of the key to stretch it back to 13. He hit another one a few moments later to put Miami up 109-92 and effectively end the game.
Finally, with Miami up 111-92, Zoran Dragic entered the game with 1:38 to go.
Miami garbage time subbed all over the Suns.
Final Score: Heat 115, Suns 98
Player of the Game:
I'm going to give this to Tyler Johnson because a) he scored a game high 26 points and b) I've never heard of him. I watch a decent amount of basketball, but if you knew this guy was the Heat's secret weapon... you watch a lot more than me. Johnson was a superb 10-13 from the field and also picked three pockets.
What a great matchup between two towering titans. It was kind of a shame that it ended in the crazy pyrotechnics because it was a wonderful back and forth between them. I wish the Suns played the Heat more this season just so I could watch more Len vs. Whiteside. Perhaps this could be a budding rivalry...
Eric Bledsoe had more fouls (three) than points (two) in the first half. He only had one field goal attempt. Not sure where that guy from last Thursday went.
Markieff Morris picked up his 13th technical foul of the season in the first half and then got ejected for a flagrant two in the third quarter. He was the Suns leading scorer when he was tossed. The ejection seemed pretty questionable at best, but maybe that's a byproduct of his reputation. It was a fitting outcome for Markieff, who played with an uncontrolled passion, after this inflammatory remarks about fans who have none.
13 first half turnovers. Most of these weren't caused by a parsimonious defense, they were more of the frittering the ball away variety.
Six technical fouls, two flagrants and three ejections. Toughness is polysemous. I'm not sure the Suns have the right kind right now.
The Suns are now 3-10 in their last 13 games and are just about to hit the tough part of their schedule.
I'm starting to think this might get ugly.