The Phoenix Suns missed out on a chance to make up some ground in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference on Saturday, failing to capitalize on Friday's loss by the Oklahoma City Thunder — an especially costly one, as it featured an injury to Russell Westbrook that will keep the star point guard sidelined for a week — in particularly dismal fashion, finding themselves on the business end of a 101-74 stomping by the visiting San Antonio Spurs.
Gregg Popovich's club utterly choked out the Phoenix attack, holding the Suns to an abysmal 8-for-43 mark (18.6 percent) from the field in the opening half and only 41 points through three quarters; the Spurs led by 34 points entering the fourth quarter. It was the worst Suns performance of the season, an utterly deflating outing in which Jeff Hornacek's team gave the Phoenix faithful virtually nothing to cheer for ... and yet, afterward, power forward Markieff Morris made the somewhat strange decision to chide Suns fans for an insufficient amount of root-root-rooting for the home team.
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Bryan Gibberman of ArizonaSports.com has the full four-minute audio clip of Morris' postgame comments:
... and Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has the quotes:
"I don't think we have a home-court advantage," Markieff said. "It does not feel like a home-court advantage at all. Some games are going to be bad. You can't win every game. That comes along with sports. Nobody wins [all of the] games. We need the support. We need, as a team, to know that our fans are going to be behind us and I don't feel like this year they're behind us enough.
"I feel like we do have those genuine Suns fans but, for the most part, I feel like we had more San Antonio than Phoenix fans tonight." [...]
"They don't boo, but they don't cheer that much, either," Markieff said. "We feed off, for the most part, off the energy. I know we're a lot better than that. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. Like I said, we have a lot of genuine fans that cheers for us – the ones that are in the first row, in the second row, in the third row. Once you go up, you feel like people were just at the game, just watching." [...]
"I speak for me and my teammates," Markieff said. "It depends on who's playing here. When we have the LeBrons and the D-Wades, we need to be heckling them. We need the fans to win games. We need the energy from them to win a lot of games, and we need that every night, not just certain nights.
"Every night is not going to be a great night. It's going to happen. Stuff like that is going to happen. We expect more from them because I know they expect more from us."
More Morris, from Bob Baum of the Associated Press:
"I just think we expect more from the fans," he continued. "That's basically what I'm getting to. We expect more. We expect this to be a home-court advantage every time we step on the court no matter if we're playing Orlando or we're playing Cleveland."
Morris later put a slightly different spin on his comments with a pair of postgame tweets:
I no the @Suns fans are going to get mad for my comments tonight but, everything we do on the court is for you guys!!!
— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) March 1, 2015
We can't protect home court without the best fans in the NBA!!!
— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) March 1, 2015
As HoopsHype notes, a number of Suns fans on Twitter backed the forward's comments, suggesting that some of the more vocal and boisterous "true" fans find themselves priced out of the prime seating at the U.S. Airways Center.
One might wonder whether the Suns' season-long penchant for depressing at-the-buzzer losses might be sapping fans' ability to fully believe in the hometown team, or if there's some lingering displeasure following star point guard Goran Dragic's tense departure from the team at the trade deadline. As Dave King wrote in strong support of Morris at Bright Side of the Sun, though, a general lack of energy during Suns home games isn't necessarily a new phenomenon:
[Phoenix fans] sit quietly for almost the entire game, build little to no anticipatory cheering and largely ignore the attempts by the MC, Gorilla and cheer leaders to "get loud." When the team plays badly, everyone gets quiet. Booing is uncouth. We're almost as bad as Canada, we're so nice.
Anyone who's been to a game the last several years know this to be true. You're either a rabid fan who was frustrated by the lack of activity from the fans around you in your section, or you're one of those quiet fans yourself. Quiet breeds quiet. If no one around you is standing or cheering loudly, you don't do it either. But that's when you can easily hear the cheers of a few hundred, or even thousand, fans for the other team. If you've been to a game against a good team, or one with a future Hall of Famer in their lineup, you know the shame you felt when you heard an unexpected sustained cheer for an opponent score. [...]
Fans who went to last night's game must have been sick to their stomachs (I know I was) to hear just how loud the visiting Spurs fans were from tipoff to the final three-pointer from Matt Bonner to put the game "out of reach" at 101-74 with a minute left.
It was sad.
"Sad" seems an apt at-the-moment descriptor for the state of the Suns, who have lost nine of their last 12 and who, despite Thursday's excellent overtime victory over Westbrook and the Thunder, have seemed unable to hold onto the sort of momentum that might help sustain their still-hoped-for playoff push.
To stay in the mix with the Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans over the next six weeks, Morris and company will need to produce markedly better play than they turned in Saturday night. If they can't, they'll be hard-pressed to complain too much about the low decibel level in their gym.
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