Markieff Morris has joined the Phoenix Suns' starting lineup just in time for his first game in his hometown.
The second-year forward has been impressive in his first two starts of the season heading into Sunday night's opener of a six-game trip against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Coach Alvin Gentry replaced Jared Dudley with Morris this week and Phoenix (6-7) has won both games since that change. Morris made 9 of 13 shots for 19 points Wednesday in a 114-87 rout of Portland and was 9 of 12 for a career-high 23 on Friday in a 111-108 overtime victory over New Orleans.
"I mean it's different, it's a little different, but coach put it on me to be a starter," Morris said. "You know I have been waiting to be a starter and I need to produce and that is what I am doing."
The Philly native came off the bench for nine points in his second career game when he faced the 76ers at home as a rookie last Dec. 28. This is his first game at the Wells Fargo Center.
Morris and the Suns are starting a trip that will cover 6,301 miles as they try to improve on a 1-4 road mark. They are looking to avoid the same bad habits they have shown at home, where they have fallen behind by double digits in seven of eight games.
"I think we just need to pick up the intensity," Morris said. "Early in the game we come out sluggish and you know teams get up on us, but it's something we're working on and we just gotta keep working."
Phoenix has dropped all three meetings with Philadelphia (7-6) since the 76ers hired Doug Collins, who had Gentry as one of his assistants during their time with Detroit.
The 76ers fell for the first time in four games against Western Conference foes with Saturday's 116-109 overtime home loss to Oklahoma City. They surrendered their highest point total and allowed the Thunder to shoot 49.5 percent - the best mark by a Philadelphia opponent in 2012-13.
Thaddeus Young had a season-high 29 points and career-high 15 boards, Evan Turner scored a season-best 26 points and Jrue Holiday handed out 13 assists but it wasn't enough against the high-powered Thunder.
"We had some guys play great, great games, fought, competed, played great," said Collins, whose club is seeking to avoid its first three-game slide. "Evan, Thad were terrific."
Holiday is averaging career highs of 17.5 points and 8.9 assists, although he is also committing a league-worst 4.5 turnovers per game.
Sixers starting guard Jason Richardson left Saturday with a sprained ankle. The former Sun's status is uncertain after he did not see action in the second half.
Dorrell Wright started four games earlier this season when Richardson was out with the same injury. Philadelphia won't use any absences or fatigue as excuses Sunday.
"That's why we have a team," Young said. "We have other guys that can step in and fulfill roles and go out there and play the game of basketball and hopefully go in and give us a little rest time."
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