Suns notes: Injuries making point duo tough to assess

PHOENIX — With watchdogs of the NBA’s plus-minus metric zeroing in on Eric Bledsoe this week, the Suns promptly lost back-to-back engagements with the Kings.

Bledsoe, of course, missed both games with a shin contusion.

Along with plus-minus conclusions, assessing value on any limited sample size can be reckless. It isn’t shocking, however, to note that Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have had some big scoring efforts operating without each other. Dragic, for example, knocked in 31 points during Wednesday’s ugly loss to the Kings.

But with the organization, its fans and the league watching how this double-point-guard lineup develops, judging it right now is tricky. Through 11 games, the Suns have played five with either Bledsoe or Dragic out and two others that included early injury departures for Goran.

“It would be nice to have them every game and then, 40 games into it, we could say this is working or it’s not working,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said before Wednesday’s loss.
“With Goran being hurt and now Eric being hurt — same thing happened in preseason — it makes it a little difficult.

“You just play with what you have, and the guys have done a pretty good job of stepping up in every game. It would be nice to have them both for a long stretch, but again, Eric should be back, if not today (he wasn’t), then I would think the next game (Friday at Charlotte).

Although it’s assumed having two ball-dominant point guards on the floor at the same time would make for clunky offensive flow, the Suns’ mediocre rank in offensive efficiency (17th) suggests having both may be a salvation.

During their frequent offensive lulls, the inability to generate a shot from the first option in a half-court set — usually a ball screen for a point guard — usually is followed by a slow reversal to another player with limited draw-and-kick skills. And the shot clock then ticks the Suns into a low-percentage shot.

With Dragic and Bledsoe on the court at the same time, dummy ball screens could be used to occupy a defense geared toward shrinking that side of the floor; a quick reversal to the other point guard can offer a second two-man attack with (hopefully) reduced help defense.

Let’s hope we’ll soon have greater opportunities to see it applied.

TWIN PEAKED?

After producing 91 points — and making 37 of 53 shots (right at 70 percent) — in a four-game stretch rewarded with conference player of the week honors, Markieff Morris has surrendered to the laws of gravity.

In the Suns’ last four games, the third-year power forward has managed 21 points (while shooting 4 for 21 overall), including a failure to scratch Tuesday in Sacramento or make a field goal here the following night. Morris is 1 for 13 in the last three games. And his rebounding has dipped from a total of 32 during the previous four-game revelation to 13 in the last four.

A head cold was credited with Markieff’s initial struggle to approach the big scoring flurry; since returning to better health, however, his game has continued to look ill.

“He needs to play with energy,” Hornacek said. “We’re trying to get him to play with more consistency.”

Hornacek also pointed out that advanced performance typically is rewarded with more attention from opposing defenses.

“When you have that level of success,” Hornacek said, “other teams are going to focus on you.”
 
RED LIGHT FOR GREEN

Although Hornacek has provided newcomer Gerald Green with his vigorous blessing to shoot all reasonably open shots, the Suns swingman did have a problem at the intersection of Wednesday’s first and second halves.

After Green scored 20 points (7 of 9 from the field) in the opening half against the Kings, Sacramento coach Mike Malone finally figured out that 6-foot-5 rookie guard Ben McLemore was a bad matchup for the 6-8 sharpshooter.

On multiple occasions over the first two quarters, the vertically gifted Green would catch the ball within shooting range (that’s a pretty vast expanse of hardwood), jab step once or twice then simply jump over the bouncy McLemore and fire.

In the second half, the Kings assigned defensive ace Luc Mbah a Moute (he’s about 6-8, strong and athletic) to check Green. Green made the opening shot of the third quarter — and that was it.

He did manage three more shots but failed to make any.

“They really didn’t make an adjustment,” Green said of the Kings.

Yeah, right.

“They put Mbah a Moute on me, and he’s a pretty good defender, but I wasn’t really as aggressive as I should have been, because I saw the game changing and I didn’t want to just take wild and crazy shots. They weren’t really helping off on me like they were in the first half, but that was the only adjustment I saw.”

Well, those seem like two pretty big adjustments. By the way, shots may seem wild and crazy when a bigger, better defender is in your face. And you become less aggressive when your obvious physical advantage has diminished.