Preview: Heat (17-16) at Suns (23-13)

Heat 109, Suns 105





PHOENIX — Alvin Gentry barely had time to comprehend how his team prevailed in a wild game against the Houston Rockets before a TV reporter lobbed him a question about Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

“Can I at least enjoy this one for five minutes?” Gentry asked.

Such is life for an NBA coach, who can’t spend too much more time than that enjoying one win before being forced to think about the next game on the schedule.

That’s especially true for a coach of the Suns, who have not won more than two in a row since the end of November after winning four in a row three times in the opening month.

Phoenix will be gunning for three in a row and five of six (with the Memphis disaster in between) when the Miami Heat come to town tonight.

“They’ll be a trememdous challenge,” Gentry said, answering the question. “They’ve got (Michael) Beasley, who’s an excellent, excellent player. (Daequan) Cook is one of those guys who stretches the floor. It will be a heck of a challenge for us. We’ll have to play at a real high level to beat those guys.”

And then there’s Dwyane Wade, and the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer at 26.9 ppg needs no introduction. The East’s leading guard in All-Star votes is the type of dynamic player that teams focus an entire game plan on.

That’s essentially what the Suns did in their first meeting on Nov. 3 in Miami, when Phoenix pulled out a zone defense that befuddled the Heat in the second half. It’s the longest extended stretch of zone the Suns have played the past few years, and the Suns went to it more or less because they felt it was the only way they could control Wade.

It likely caught the Heat off guard in the fourth game of the season coming from a team that doesn’t play zone. They will be more prepared this time when the Suns inevitably go zone again, particularly Wade, who still managed 23 in that game but went for 43 and 35 in the two meetings against the Suns last season.

“You look at Dwyane Wade, he’s a potential MVP candidate every single year,” said Suns center Channing Frye. “You’ve got to take into account what he can do on any given night.”

As Miami commences a six-game trip out West, Wade likely won’t be too happy, either, after his team lost to the Celtics in overtime on Wednesday despite 44 from him, the Heat’s fourth loss in five games.

For the Suns this is a chance to continue what has thus far been a very good week and fatten up a little bit before this run of 10 of 12 home games turns into another Eastern Conference road trip.

For all their struggles in December, the Suns wake up today sitting in the No. 3 spot in the West. Considering all their inconsistency, that’s not a bad place to be.

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