For the third time this season, coach Jeff Hornacek benched a Phoenix Suns player for the rest of the game for getting a technical foul for arguing with the referee over a call (or missed call). This time, it was mild-mannered fan favorite Goran Dragic who got himself benched for bumping a referee while yelling at him after a no-call on a fast break.
Goran Dragic sat out the rest of the game.
The Suns are 1-2 in those games, each of them coming down to the final possession in regulation.
Why would a coach make bad matters even worse by benching one of his best players for sticking up for himself to the referee? It's bad enough that you lose a point on the technical foul, but to lose the game as a result is madness.
Prior to this new rule being in place, the Phoenix Suns led the league with 32 technical fouls called against them in just 41 games. The behavior was bad enough that our own Jim Coughenour asked in his 'Going Gorilla' feature if the Suns were dirty?
Let's take a walk down memory lane - THREE WHOLE WEEKS AGO
Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris lead the charge for the Suns with seven each, tied for second in the NBA. Right behind them are Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker with four (tied for 12th). Goran Dragic (3), Gerald Green (2) and Isaiah Thomas (2) are also in the top 50.
That's seven of the Suns core nine players in the top 50. That's not good.
Who else is near the top of the league in technical fouls?
Basically, players that I routinely hear Suns fans describe as dirty, selfish, arrogant and entitled. They are called punks, jerks, scumbags... and worse. That's the group the Suns find themselves associating with. Slumming around in the NBA's quagmire of moral turpitude.
Jim recounted a pre-New Year game that was so rife with technicals, but the Suns managed to out-T the Ts.
The most recent was on New Year's Eve, when the Suns and Oklahoma City racked up a total of seven technical fouls. Markieff Morris and assistant coach Mike Longabardi were both rung up and Alex Len received a flagrant one right before halftime during a crazy sequence of events in which Russell Westbrook was ejected for taunting the Suns' bench.
The Thunder regained its equanimity during halftime, though, while the Suns piled up two more technical fouls in the second half. Tucker got one in the third quarter and Bledsoe was whistled for another with 5:07 remaining in the game. Kevin Durant made both freebies. The Suns lost the game in overtime. It was another addition to a list of tough losses that have defined this season.
And then Jim laid down the law. Remember, this was January 4, before the Suns had this new rule.
It needs to stop. Their misconduct is costing them games and blemishing their individual reputations as well as that of the team.The Suns need to cut this crap out. They're better than this.
And if they don't, Jeff Hornacek needs to do something about it.
Perhaps benching Markieff's ass for the rest of the game next time he picks up a stupid tech will help get the message across. Then afterwards let him deal with this teammates that he let down and explain to the fans why he can't control his temper during a game.
Four days later, the Minnesota game happened.
Markieff Morris got a technical early in the third quarter of a tie game, putting the Suns in a deficit. Then Marcus Morris got a technical a few minutes later, putting the Suns down two points.
And Jeff Hornacek did something about it.
Marcus Morris was benched and never re-entered the game, which was decided on a missed shot at the buzzer. This time it went in the Suns favor.
The next night, against San Antonio, the Suns were down by three points with 1:57 left in the game when both P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris drew technicals for arguing with the referees, turning a 3-point deficit into 5. They were benched and never returned, and the Suns lost by 5 points.
The next day, the team had a meeting. The coach told the team that, from then on and just like the prior two games, if you get a technical foul for arguing with the referees you will be benched for the rest of the game.
The Suns went six whole games without a technical foul being called, going 4-2 in that span, culminating in a convincing win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
But on Friday, when the game wasn't going their way, the T-bug reared its ugly head again. This time, it was P.J. Tucker drawing a T for staring down and talking smack to James Harden. He drew the foul at the 11:37 mark of the third, basically meaning that any benching would be a full half-game.
Then, fan favorite Goran Dragic went up and bumped into a ref while arguing a no-call at the 6:19 mark of the third quarter, with the Suns down 10.
Tucker returned to the lineup in the third quarter, while Goran Dragic sat the rest of the game. The reason being that Tucker's technical was for arguing with a player. Dragic's was for arguing with a referee.
Rules are not rules if you bend them when they become inconvenient.
Hopefully, this team will learn its lesson. The Clippers are coming to town on Sunday night.
In a thriller, James Harden came through all game long and when it mattered most. He made the jumper as the clock expired to give the Houston Rockets the win over the Phoenix Suns, 113-111.
The game didn't look the same in person, but the results were the same. The Houston Rockets took a strong lead and led for most of the game by double digits before the Suns mounted a big comeback at the end, just to come up short.
The game got real interesting late, as the Suns made big shot after big shot to close the gap. But the Rockets kept scoring too, which isn't a good thing in a comeback.
A Marcus Morris three pointer pulled the Suns to 104-100 with 2:16 left. But a bad possession (Mook TO) led to a Rockets fast break to make it a 6-point lead again with 1:25 left.
Then Markieff Morris made a huge three-point play to pull within three before Patrick Beverley took and scored his first non-three ball of the game, a layup to make it in a 5-point game.
Then Isaiah Thomas made a three to pull the Suns within 2 before James Harden made it a 3-point game on a free throw (is there any other kind for him?) with 31.9 seconds left.
Then Markieff made a putback layup to make it a 1-point game with 27.2 seconds left (109-108) before James Harden got a couple of free throws to make it three-point game again.
Then Markieff made another old fashioned three-point play to TIE THE GAME with 16.6 seconds left.
And then James Harden happened. He made the shot with no time left on the clock.
I'm really sick of other teams making game winners on the Suns court.
Eric Bledsoe was the Suns' biggest bright spot with a near triple double to carry the Suns to the close finish. Markieff Morris scored 11 of his 21 points in the final minutes to pull the Suns into an improbable tie with seconds left. Goran Dragic had a really bad game. He scored only 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting in 18 minutes, generally being "hugged" by Rockets defenders until drawing technical arguing a no-call and missing the rest of the game as punishment.
The game started with me wondering where all the fans are. Maybe saving up their discretionary income for the big golf tournament and Super Bowl next week? Or the NFL experience, NFL Central or the flea market, maybe? The arena was maybe half full at tipoff after being 90% full (or so) on Wednesday night.
Alex Len started real strong, with two blocks, three rebounds and a couple of altered shots on the Rockets first few possessions. He even scored the Suns first two points with a nice midrange jumper.
Then Dwight Howard bounced in a three pointer. Dwight freaking Howard.
Josh Smith came after D-Mo's second foul and immediately put up a 20-footer which missed badly. That's a good sign.
But then with Smith in the game, along with Corey Brewer in place of Howard and Motejiunas, the Rockets long, active lineup went on a 14-2 run to take a 30-18 lead before the Suns could settle back down.
The first quarter ended on a Suns 6-2 run, but 32-24 is not a good first quarter score.
The second quarter started like the first, with the Rockets playing a long, quick lineup to counter the Suns speed effectively. The lead vacillated between 6-8 points for the Rockets as the teams traded baskets. The Rockets made two more threes, making it 6-for-10 in the game.
The Suns got a bit closer, but every time they got within a possession the Rockets would get an easy basket off nice ball movement and bad Suns D.
The Suns were just not playing spirited or clinical defense. I mean, you kinda have to do one of those things to be effective. Doing both is a plus.
Phoenix got within 52-50 with some quality offense and a little lull from Rockets, but then shat on the bed giving up a bad-looking 8-2 run to the Rockets.
Not a good look.
The Suns started the third on a good run, pulling to within 61-58 out of the gate before the Rockets got into rhythm and scored the next 8 points to open up their first double digit lead (69-58).
From that point on, the Suns just couldn't close the gap and the quarter ended with a 10-point Rockets lead.
Eric Bledsoe kept the Suns in the game, scoring 11 of their 25 points. The rest of the team went 6-for-18 in the period, basically stinking up the joint.
The Rockets won the quarter by playing harder than the Suns, and getting into the Suns heads. P.J. Tucker and Goran Dragic each drew a technical foul complaining about calls, getting themselves put on the bench for the rest of the quarter.
The fourth opened with P.J. Tucker coming back on the court, showing that Hornacek is relenting a bit on his 'get a T, miss the rest of the game' mantra.
But the Suns were out of it by now. They couldn't buy a bucket to open the quarter, missing four or five straight open shots while the Rockets bench players kept the lead.
The only player playing well, and consistently, in this game is Eric Bledsoe. He's on track for a triple-double. 23, 9 and 7 with 4 minutes left as the Suns pull to within 7.
It got crazy from there. See the recap at the top.
Damn you, James Harden.