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Aftermath: Tyler Ulis is the silver lining in another Suns loss

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns were not ready to win the game against the Houston Rockets and break their 11-game losing streak, but it wasn’t Tyler Ulis’ fault.

Ulis scored a career high 34 points and grabbed a career high 9 rebounds while dishing 9 assists in the Suns loss.

“I knew Tyler was pretty special quickly,” coach Earl Watson said. “At his size and as a rookie point guard, that’s great numbers.”

Ulis is just 5’9” and weighs maybe 150 pounds. Since Eric Bledsoe was sat down for the season, Ulis has been playing 40+ minutes per game and doing quite well in a large role.

Since the All-Star break, Ulis leads all rookies in assists (7.3) by a wide margin, is 3rd in steals (1.2) and is 7th in scoring (12.0).

His 7.3 assists per game since the Break puts him 9th in the league over that span.

But Ulis is feeling the grind.

“It’s up and down,” he said of how his body is feeling day to day. “Some nights I feel terrible, some nights good. So far I’m good. I’m happy I’m playing so much.”

Watson knows the minutes are weighing on all the young guys, including Ulis, Devin Booker, Derrick Jones Jr., Alan Williams and others.

“I think young guys physically playing that many minutes game to game, it’s tough,” Watson said. “It’s tough in this league especially on the back to back.”

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni on Ulis, who made 15 of 22 shots in the game: “He’s good. The guy can move and shoot and score the basketball. Really score.”

Ulis’ post game interview:

Ulis’ highlights:

Return of the Dragan!

Dragan Bender came in and played like he’d never left, scoring 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in his first 9 minutes of play.

“I just came out and try to feel out the ankle,” Bender said. “Try to do the things I normally do on the court. I had no problems with the ankle. I’m just happy to be on the court.”

Bender even showed off the ability to score in the post with a pair of hook shots over smaller guys. This is a skill he really needs going forward, and it’s good that he came back with one more trick in his bag.

“He’s just a straight basketball player,” coach Watson said. “He goes out there, he just plays the game. He takes what the defense gives him.

“He’s a hard match-up. You can’t put a small guy on him, if you do, he’ll go to the post. You put a bigger guy, he can stretch you out. And, he’s getting more comfortable.”

Second-seed in the lotto standings!

With the loss coupled with a Lakers win, the Suns now have a half-game in the race for second-worst record in the league and second-most ping pong balls.

With four games to go for the Suns (and five for the Lakers), if both teams lose out they will end up tied.

If the teams tie, they will split their total lotto ball combinations (for 2nd and 3rd worst record) and divide them in half, giving both teams the same chance in the lottery (ie. about 17% chance at the #1 pick, and 51% chance at Top 3 pick).