Miami Heat 99, Phoenix Suns 95 — Knockout run


Wade and Bosh were too much for the Suns down the stretch. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Wade and Bosh were too much for the Suns down the stretch. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

The Phoenix Suns thrust themselves back into the playoff picture by taking care of business at home, winning 10 of 12 in the Purple Palace while playing all but two games in their building the past month.

With 7:29 left in tonight’s showdown in Miami, the Phoenix Suns seemed on the verge of taking their hot streak on the road when Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to extend Phoenix’s lead to a game-high 10 points.

But then Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout, reinserted LeBron James and Mario Chalmers back in the game and watched his team smother the Suns defensively on Miami’s way to a game ending 17-0 run that resulted in a 99-95 Heat victory.

The Suns missed 10 consecutive shots and committed three turnovers before scoring again on a Hill layup with 1:10 remaining after Phoenix went over half a quarter without putting up a single point.

Dwyane Wade punctuated the run by darting through the lane for a fancy And 1 to put the Heat up five during a period in which he led Miami with 11 points.

“When we put ourselves in a position to win a game, we can’t let it slip away,” head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “You have to give them some credit. They made the plays down the stretch. The biggest disappointment is that we did come up with stops, but they got the ball back on offensive rebounds. That can’t happen.”

Simply put, Miami ratcheted up the defensive pressure and the Suns could not handle it. The Heat, who rank fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, can dial up a level that most NBA defenses can never reach.

Nash had no room to operate and shooters possessed no breathing room. It surely did not help that Robin Lopez missed a tip in and then two layups right at the rim, one of which should have been an easy dunk.

Phoenix’s defense did not match that intensity on the other hand and seemingly in a blink of an eye the Suns went from up double digits to behind.

“We just can’t lose that game!!” Jared Dudley tweeted. “Up 10 with 7 min to play..We played so well and held D-Wade and Bron down as best as you can..gotta move on. … Gotta put this one away, we’re playing great basketball just have to finished better on the road.”

It is always disappointing to lose, especially when you are playing as well as Phoenix has been, but I would file this one away in the encouraging loss department.

The Suns fought back from an early nine-point deficit and played James (20 points, 8-for-18) and Wade (19, 6-for-17) about as well as they can be defended, as Dudley tweeted, although they let Chris Bosh roam free for 29 on 12-for-16 shooting.

Phoenix got contributions up and down its roster, with nine players scoring at least six points and six guys tallying at least nine, led by Grant Hill’s 19.

Although the starters have been so good all year, it was the bench that put Phoenix in position to win. Led by Brown’s +10 in 20 minutes, all five Phoenix reserves were in the positives in plus/minus whereas all of the starters were in the negatives. However, that should largely be attributed to the starters playing heavy minutes against Bosh (+22), Wade (+17) and James (+15).

“They were the ones that got us a lead and put us in a position to win the game,” Gentry said. “We just needed to finish the game.”

In many ways this game shows how far Phoenix has come. Aside from the first six minutes and the final six minutes, the Suns were every bit the equal of the league’s second-best team, a squad that has now run off 14 consecutive victories on its home floor.

When the Suns faced a team this good back in January, the Chicago Bulls ran Phoenix off the floor even without star point guard Derrick Rose. During this past hot month the only other time they played a team like this they dropped a similar game with a late collapse in Oklahoma City.

Miami is the kind of team that thrives off monster runs. Once that boulder starts rolling down the hill it is impossible to stop, and the Suns just got flattened in the end.

However, most teams are beaten long before the final minutes against this Miami squad, which is now 20-2 at home and entered the day outscoring opponents by more than eight points a game.

The bottom line is the Suns are playing very well and this performance likely would’ve been good enough to win on most nights.

But when Miami pushed the turbo button down the stretch, the Suns had no counter and that was the difference in the end.

Hill said the Suns could learn a thing or two about the way Miami turned this game around.

“We need to not get discouraged,” he said. “We’re playing good basketball. We need to understand that when you’re on the road, you’re up, and you’re nursing a lead, then you have to get stops. You have to get rebounds. You have to play with a sense of desperation. They were the ones that got desperate down the stretch, and they got the win. There were a lot of good things that we did tonight. We played well enough to win. We just have to do a better job in the last five to six minutes.”

And 1

  • The loss hurts a bit more because Houston rallied from a 12-point deficit with just over six minutes remaining to beat the Lakers at home behind a 16-7-13 line from Goran Dragic, who also nailed the game-winning three-pointer. If neither comeback had taken place, the Suns would be tied for the final playoff spot with Utah. As things stand, they trail the Rockets by 1 1/2 games.
  • Larry Coon estimates that the Suns will have $26 million in cap space next offseason, tied with Cleveland for the most in the league. “They could afford to re-sign Nash for one more run, plus get him some high-powered help,” Coon writes.

  • Scott

    The last 7 minutes of the game are why I keep suggesting Gentry play Gortat with Lopez. Not only are they two of the team’s best paint defenders, but as two legit 7-footers they should be tougher to guard on offense.

    As for laying the ball up instead of dunking it, that’s something that’s learned, and these Suns just haven’t been in many crunch time situations where it was important to play big (well, not since Amare left; and Amare definitely knew the lesson).

  • Scott

    BTW, Kobe knows Dragic’s name.

    After the Lakers lost to the Rockets on Dragic’s 10 point 4th quarter, Kobe met Dragic at half court and spoke to him. (Probably signaling that he’d like Dragic to be a Laker.)

    From ESPN:

    Houston held on and Bryant made a point to meet Dragic at midcourt after the final buzzer.

    “He just said, ‘Good game, I wish you luck, ‘” Dragic said. “Nothing special.”

    Bryant remembers when the Lakers struggled to guard Dragic when he backed up Steve Nash with Phoenix.

    “A lot of times when we played them in the playoffs, in the Western Conference finals, when he came off the bench, that’s the unit that really gave us the biggest headache,” Bryant said. “He’s really developed into a hell of a basketball player.”

  • fan in chi-town

    This loss was brutal. A ten minute lead in the fourth quarter, even if you can’t get stops at least trade baskets. What is wrong with gortat, he’s a center that refuses to dunk, and he can’t catch a pass unless it is thrown exactly on point. It’s becoming painful to watch. Gentry should have at least left brown and markieff in down the stretch because the heat could not guard either of them.

    Play of the night though was morris’ block plus And 1 on battier, that was nasty all around.

  • fan in chi-town

    However still a bad loss. I don’t care if the heat have been blowing out everyone, we had the game, just like the OKC game and we just gave it away

  • A-ROCK

    @Mike How come nobody mentioned the bad officiating at the end of the game when the Heat kept on pushing the Suns players to get every possession. That is no excuse because our big men lost the game being soft. There is no excuse for Lopez at the rim missing lay ups, or Channing Fry turning down all those shots. Gentry should have took his soft butt out! Thanks Markeif for showing some toughness and not making anything easy for the opposing team. It just sucks that your toughest players are the older ones and the rookie!! Fry plays like such a buster he is toilet paper soft, he irratates the hell out of me and Lopez is just plane dumb but he does have a hook shot so keep using it. Fry has his dumb momments too ugh!

  • PennyAnd1

    @Fan In Chi-Town

    Finally someone else other than me saw just how bad Gortat is..Seriously I love Gortat as a Suns Center doing the dirty work, but no way should he do a p-n-r during crunch time! Again Gortat misses so many opportunities. The turnovers by Nash & Hill are deceiving cause in reality, Gortat fumbles it.

    Still I can’t blame the whole thing on Gortat..everyone just choked during the Heat run even Nash.. Nobody just wanted to take the shot..that’s why they should’ve gone out to get a scorer in Monta Ellis when they had a chance.

    Good game nonetheless, tomorrow we’ll get the Magic and start another run..

  • PennyAnd1

    @A-Rock

    Frye & lopez has both been doing great as of late, including JD..sometimes things don’t go your way, but the open looks & defense was there. Remember, they were up against the big 3, everyone has a hard time on them. They all f*cked up in the end, including Nash, JD, and Hill, especially Gortat can’t catch *DON’T GIVE HIM THE BALL!* but no one has ever shot down LBJ & Wade like the Suns have. Bosh just had his shooting touch.

  • PennyAnd1

    I officially announce Gortat’s new nickname..

    THE POLISH SOFTENER

    If he’d dunk, he’d had more points..too bad he is too soft.

  • JR

    i’m a bit disappointed, i really wanted to see Lebron loose, but phoenix is just not that athletic, although i don’t mind if they gonna loose against miami okc or chicago, those teams are packed with all stars. good game for the bench and Grant!

    @And1 u are officially the toughest guy on internet, i repeat on INTERNET, congrats!

  • steve

    Loose what? Oh, did you mean l-o-s-e “lose?”
    ;) sorry, that’s just about my only grammatical pet peeve.

  • steve

    I only listened on the radio last night, but it was a perfect example of why I don’t think this team is going to make the playoffs or do any damage if they happen to sneak in. They are a terrible 4th quarter team. No one on the team seems to want to take shots when it counts, and when they slow their offense down, things get stagnant more often than not. Anyway, I think part of the blame last night has to go on Gentry. When it was 90-80 and Miami called that timeout, he should have made a complete swap from second to first unit. You could tell Miami only had one more push in them, and the Suns needed to be full strength over the next couple of minutes. Instead, Gentry only brought Nash, and everyone on the floor just seemed to want to stand there waiting for Nash to make it easy for them (again, I wasn’t watching, but I didn’t get the impression from the radio that the offense was “fluid”).

    Anyway, this was exactly the type of game the Suns cannot lose (or “loose” ;) ) if they don’t want to be home for the entire postseason.

  • AL

    This game annoyed me as much as the last game against Thunder. Phoenix needs to realize that NBA games last 48 mins not 40 like in College. Gentry really needs to learn how manage his timeouts in 4th quarters when the teams are neck and neck. It was because of his inability to properly make rotations that led to Miami going to the line in 3 straight possessions to come back from the 10 point deficit. I know Markieff was playing well but he got his 4th and 5th foul really quickly and Gentry still let him stay in the game for another full minute instead of switching to Frye. That’s just bad decisions. By the time Gentry did call time-out the momentum had already shifted in favor of Miami. Gentry screwed things up even more by being called for a technical foul for complaining for his bad decisions. The starters started to panic after that.
    For having 3 seven footers on the team, they sure play like a bunch of guards. Gortat, Frye, and Lopez CAN’T F****NG DUNK?!?! Are you kidding me. Missing high percentage shots because you’re scared of contact is NOT acceptable. The thing that ended the 17-0 run was Hill’s circus layup shot and even that was almost a miss.
    Gentry should only be allowed to coach the team for 3 quarters. The 4th quarter should be coach by Elson Turner, because it really is strong defense that finishes games.
    Can’t blame the second unit for this loss, because it was they who created the 10 point lead. Gentry should have switched to starters to not let the lead disappear so quickly.
    The two players that annoyed me the most in the Heat’s team was Chalmers and Haslem. Chalmers is a pest on defense and he went for 5 steals. Haslem shot 12 free throws? That’s Bosh and James attempts combined.
    The only good thing from this was that it showed that the Suns could compete with the elite even if it was for only 3 and a half quarters.

  • JR

    @steve
    sorry i’m from Poland, and same like Gortat’s free throws grammar is my weakness ;)

  • grover

    I’m disappointed we lost, but frankly am more surprised we almost won it. I’ll step defend Gentry and the Suns a little:
    A) Gentry has a history of riding the hot hand or hot lineup longer than probably any coach in the NBA. He’s departed from his normal substitution patterns to leave second stringers who were on fire during pressure situations a bunch of times. The safer choice, and where most coaches go, is to get your key players back in during key moments regardless as it is easier to face the press and fans and explain why your all star lost the game than it is to explain why you left your all star on the bench while allowing the other team to start a run. I commend Gentry for having balls.
    B). Should we really be surprised Miami came back in the clutch? They arguably have the best player in the NBA overall in addition to having the best SG and second best PF. Yes, the Suns should be able to hold a 10 pt lead with 6 to play, but frankly 2/3 or more of the teams in the NBA would be unable to withstand the onslaught from these three when they get it rolling, especially in Miami.
    C). This is the same Gortat we’ve had all year, so too many fair weather fans jumping on his back. We’ve gone from arguing about whether he’s the 2nd or 3rd best C in the league to making up mocking nicknames? Players have good games/weeks. You can’t get too excited on the peaks or too upset on the valleys. Be reasonable and look at his performance over time.

    I’m choosing to look at this game as a good sign. On the road, we had them down and could have won. Disappointing, yes, but catch a couple breaks and fix a couple small problems and we’ve shown we can beat anyone, even on their court.

    Curious what we’ll see from Orlando tonight, whether they’ll be on fire to make up from an awful performance last night or if this is a team about to implode and start the finger pointing.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Grover

    I agree with you about Gentry. At the end of the day, it’s the players on the court not the coach. No one wanted it on the Suns during the final stretch.

    I disagree about Gortat. I think we’ve seen Gortat’s potential at its finest. How will he improve? Run faster? learn to dunk? learn to catch? other than faster.. catch & dunk is really an instinct. You either have it or you don’t. And Gortat has proven to me that he doesn’t have it. You really have to pass it slow to him to catch it. Don’t expect the defenders on the playoffs to go slow on Gortat too, in my opinion he’s a sitting duck at the offensive end.

    @AL

    Lopez & Frye can dunk.. it’s because they are 7 footers & slow that they can’t go full speed to the rim & dunk. Gortat however is fast.

  • Zak

    Hmmm… Gortat’s not perfect? What a shocker. Who do you guys think we should – and COULD – get to replace him?

    With all the faults people are quick to point out in his game, he’s still a damn fine NBA center who is averaging 15.9 ppg and 10 rpg this season.

    It’s a damn shame that he isn’t perfect like all the other NBA centers. Gortat is ONLY ranked 5th in field goal percentage among ALL NBA players, 7th in double-doubles among ALL NBA players, 9th in rebounding among ALL NBA players, 16th in blocks among ALL NBA players and 7th overall among NBA centers according to Hollinger’s ranking system at ESPN.

    Yeah, he’s really a lame excuse for an NBA center and we would be much better off without him. (That’s pure sarcasm. I just want to make that perfectly clear.)

  • Scott

    As for Gortat going to the hoop late in close games … the way the team is structured he’s the only man for the Suns in the paint, while the opposing team collapses on him. I remember seeing Gortat trying to put the ball in the basket, but he’s surrounded by black jerseys.

    In his prime Shaq could score under those circumstances, but hardly anyone else.

    It seems to me that if you’re in a close game, at the end, and your jumpers are not hitting, and you want to go inside, you can’t put one man against 4 and hope to succeed.

    If you have 2 men inside, that cuts the defensive pressure in half, and it increases the likelihood of being able to pass the ball back out to a completely unguarded shooter.

  • Tony

    Firstly,

    Gentry should not be blamed for the Suns loss to the Heat mainly because the Heat played most of the game without much energy, basically coasting against the Suns, and, when it mattered in the 4th, they simply turned up the intensity and buried the Suns. There’s nothing Gentry could do to prevent the Heat from stepping it up. Unfortunately, because this team lacks so much talent thanks to the front office, the Suns have to put in maximum effort all 48 minutes to beat the better teams, whereas the elite teams can “play-down” to the Suns and then when the 4th quarter comes, turn up their intensity. Give Gentry more talent and athleticism and then he can take the team deep into the playoffs as in the 2009-2010 great Suns run.

    As far as Gortat goes, the guy needs to get stronger, particularly his lower body. And, as Penny alluded to, he has to get better at catching passes. He drops too many passes causing Nash to get credited for TOs despite it really being caused by Gortat. With that being said though, Gortat does not have the mental makeup to be a truly dominant center. He doesn’t play with much aggression or toughness, it’s just not in his mental makeup. That’s not to say he’s soft, just that he doesn’t have that “edge” that star players have.

    All in all though, we shouldn’t be surprised the Suns lost. In all probability, the Heat simply were caught off guard by the Suns chemistry and expected to just coast to an easy victory. But then, once the 4th quarter started, the Heat stepped up their energy and basically bullied the Suns. At least the Suns did play the Heat tough most of the game, but in the end, the Heat have too much talent and athleticism for the Suns to overcome.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Zak

    Imagine if the other four centers ahead of Gortat were to play with Nash. They’d leave Gortat behind the dust.

  • steve

    Pure conjecture. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.