Morris shines in return to Phoenix, Wizards dump Suns 106-99
PHOENIX (AP) Markieff Morris started the day by telling reporters he had ''no trust'' in his former team's management. He then endured boos every time he touched the ball in his return to Phoenix.
By the end of the night, a defiant Morris had led the Washington Wizards to a much-needed victory.
Morris overcame the rude welcome by scoring 21 points in the Wizards' 106-99 victory over the Suns on Friday night.
''I've been booed 100,000 times, way worse than that,'' Morris said. ''It doesn't affect me.''
John Wall added 22 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, and Brandon Beal scored 21 points for the Wizards, who moved within 2 1/2 games of idle Indiana for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Morris' tumultuous 4 1/2-year Phoenix stint ended when he was dealt to the Wizards on Feb. 18. The fans let him know their displeasure from the time he was introduced.
But he shot 8 of 14 and grabbed nine rebounds as he took advantage of Phoenix's starting two 7-footers as the Wizards rallied to snap a two-game losing streak.
''I told him that means they love you,'' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ''When another team boos you, trust me, that means you were a hell of a player here. If you were a nobody, they wouldn't boo you.''
Mirza Teletovic had 24 points and 12 rebounds off the bench for the Suns, who got 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting by rookie Devin Booker in their fifth straight loss.
''This is part of the process for Devin, being the closer,'' Suns coach Earl Watson said. ''I guarantee you he's more motivated, especially after tonight's performance.''
The Wizards needed a strong fourth quarter to avoid another damaging loss to a lottery-bound team.
Two nights after a disheartening defeat in Sacramento in which Beal said his team ''gave up,'' the Wizards trailed by eight in the third quarter and 79-77 entering the fourth.
But the Wizards dominated the final period as the Suns started throwing the ball away without injured point guard Brandon Knight. Two consecutive hoops by Ramon Sessions put the Wizards up 96-87 with 5 minutes left and secured a happy return for Morris.
''I miss those guys a lot and I told them that,'' Morris said of his ex-teammates.
Things turned sour for the forward last summer when he demanded a trade after the Suns dealt his twin Marcus to Detroit.
''They booed my brother, so I figured they'd boo me, too,'' Morris said.
But there have been numerous other incidents that drew the fans' ire. He and his brother were arrested last year on felony assault charges. He criticized the fans for lack of support following a 27-point home loss last season.
Morris was suspended after he threw a towel at then-coach Jeff Hornacek during a December loss to Denver. He then had a bench altercation with teammate Archie Goodwin shortly before the trade deadline deal to the Wizards.
''It's just tough to do certain things with no trust and play for people you really don't trust,'' Morris said at shootaround.
Morris declined to elaborate after the game, saying only, ''That's how I feel.''
Washington was three games out of a playoff berth when they acquired Morris, and entered the night in the same position. The Suns are rooting for the Wizards' demise, as they acquired a first-round draft pick in exchange for Morris and will get it this year if it's outside the top nine.
But despite the Suns' 56-44 rebounding edge, they couldn't hold on as Washington won for the second time in six games.
''I think I could see an extra pep in his step this morning at shootaround,'' Wittman said of Morris. ''And he came right out and played a real consistent game.''
Wizards: Another former Sun, C Marcin Gortat, was cheered when he was introduced. ... Wittman disagreed with Beal's assessment of their recent struggles. ''It's not a lack of effort, it's lack of being on the same page,'' Wittman said, citing missed defensive assignments. ... F Alan Anderson (ankle) didn't dress.
Suns: Knight's sports hernia issue has flared up again. Watson said it's possible they'll shut him down for the rest of the season. ... Ronnie Price started in Knight's place and was 1 of 8 from the field. ... P.J. Tucker had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Tyson Chandler added 11 points and 15 boards.
Wizards: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Suns: Home vs. Utah on Sunday.