The Suns played solid, sound basketball for three quarters to beat the Heat
That hasn’t been the case with some of the Phoenix Suns’ best performances this season, but they need more wins like Monday’s 118-105 final over the Miami Heat.
Phoenix was very strong for a full three quarters, doing just enough and not letting any area of the game get away from them (before the usual horror in the final frame which we’ll get to). He shot the ball well, moved the ball well, didn’t make a lot of defensive mistakes and took care of the ball.
The Suns were coming off 23 turnovers in Orlando and that’s largely why they lost, their second straight loss with a stark inconsistency in shot attempts. On Monday, their first turnover came with 6:34 left in the second quarter and they finished the night with just eight.
Offensive rebounding was 10-8 Suns, so with the Heat really lacking any shots of their own, the game wasn’t much of an issue for Phoenix. He took a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter, taking full advantage of Miami shooting just 34.5% at the time, in contrast to the Orlando loss when the Suns shot a better 25% in the first half but led by just five.
The Suns extended the lead to 25 late in the third quarter and Miami’s lack of energy indicated we were done for the evening. The Heat lost their seventh straight game, their longest streak since March 2008, and looked like they were in a good position.
Then came the fourth quarter, and after getting off to an 8-0 start, Phoenix called a timeout and brought Devin Booker back into the game. He was able to rest a little over two minutes of game time and somewhat helped settle things down, though Miami disrupted the pace of the game enough to go beyond 13 with less than five minutes remaining.
Miami used its usual zone defense approach to liven up the game and at least succeeded in getting the Suns out of rhythm. Phoenix was able to create decent looks but couldn’t knock down many of them, shooting 7-for-24 (29.2%). However, the earlier work done had so much of a cushion that Miami only got as close as 11 before Bradley Beal’s 3 with 2:24 remaining to put the Suns up 16 was the dagger.
Scouting reports now certainly include a focus on the Suns’ fourth-quarter backs. To be sure, Miami was always going to go to that zone to open the final frame, knowing it would very likely muddy the pace to make the Suns more disruptive, an issue they talk about often.
But overall, what got Phoenix going was a great night off the bench. Drew Eubanks provided an excellent first shift when the returning Jusuf Nurkic picked up two early fouls. Eubanks finished with 11 points, Josh Okogie added 11 points and Eric Gordon added 23 points.
This was the night that ended a streak of six straight 40-point outbursts, and Phoenix didn’t even need a member of the Big Three to reach 30 points. The trio provided 21 assists and two assists, with Bale and Booker seven each. And Kevin Durant. Booker scored 22 points, while Durant’s tally rose to 20 points, while Bell scored 19 points, who seemed more comfortable with a new mask to treat a broken nose.
The Suns produced 30 assists after just 19 on Sunday.
Grayson Allen injured his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return. He rose slightly to contest the jumper on defense and his right foot landed under Josh Okogie.
Grayson steps on Okogie’s foot here pic.twitter.com/IqdcSDWxfe
– Cage (@silly) January 30, 2024
The extremely slow running back did not show aggravation or adjustment, which the Suns hope will be good news when he is evaluated on Tuesday. Allen, like Nurkic, has been invaluable this season and Phoenix is a different and worse team when he’s not around.
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