Miami Heat 103, Phoenix Suns 97-- Runaway train

PHOENIX – Suns coach Jeff Hornacek called out the obvious. His Phoenix Suns weren’t going to beat the two-time champion Miami Heat for the first time in the Big Three era if his team turned the ball over.

But at key points throughout and especially in the final few minutes, Phoenix did just that.

Despite employing intentional fouls to keep LeBron James and company out of transition, the Suns made too many big mistakes late, falling 103-97 to the Heat in U.S. Airways Center on Tuesday. They turned the ball over 16 times leading to 24 points, and two of those times came at crucial points in the fourth quarter.

James scored 11 of the Heat’s final 14 and he set up Chris Bosh for a dagger three-pointer that made up the other three points.

In the fourth, James took over, scoring 14 points as Miami went 8-for-13 from the field. Most importantly, Miami got to the foul stripe 14 times, many of those opportunities coming off transition fouls.

Phoenix started the game on a 12-0 run and held a 25-15 advantage with three minutes left in the first quarter. A massive scoring drought followed, allowing Miami to score 10 straight before a fastbreak layup by Ish Smith and a layup by Leandro Barbosa in transition the next time down broke the cold spell.

Phoenix held Miami to 38 percent shooting and 1-for-11 from three-point range through two quarters, using crisp rotations and effort in recovering to take advantage of a team without Dwyane Wade — he suffered from a migraine all day long — and playing with a passive James.

But as it always is with James, the King wouldn’t remain silent for the whole game. After scoring 12 points in the first half, it took less than a minute in the first half for him to draw a switch and drill a three-pointer over Miles Plumlee.

Miami went on an 11-0 run to take a 62-55 lead halfway through the third period. While the Heat looked re-energized on offense to start the third while the Suns appeared flat-footed, that changed midway through the quarter. The Heat gave up four three-pointers in the period and allowed the Suns to connect on 12-of-19 of their total field goals. P.J. Tucker found Markieff Morris for a slam before the third-quarter ended on a tricky behind-the-back pass to give Phoenix a 74-71 lead heading to the fourth before falling despite showing some fight.

Can the Suns outrun the Heat?

Phoenix picked its spots and did well turning the Heat over early on. That was about the extent of their offensive success, as neither team shot better than 40 percent in the first half. But in holding Miami to 38 percent shooting in the first half, the Suns put themselves in solid positions to succeed.

Although the Suns didn’t turn the ball over at a wild rate, the ones they did turn over were mighty painful. Hornacek seemed to employ a European fouling strategy, wrapping up Heat players any time they seemed to be on the fastbreak when James was on the court.

In the end, Miami’s points from those plays alone were the difference in the final score. The Suns finished with 21 fastbreak points but gave up 20 to the Heat.

Will Phoenix attempt more free throws than threes?

Not even close, and the lack of foul shots reflected how much the Suns got on the perimeter. The majority of their scoring in the paint was done on fastbreaks, but the perimeter shooting came with fluid offense and, for the most part, success.

Phoenix hit 12-of-28 from deep but got to the foul stripe just 17 times.

Can Phoenix’s team defense limit Miami to just one big night?

It was easy to say that when Dwyane Wade was scratched because of a migraine headache. James did his thing, finishing with 37 points, five steals and nine rebounds. Chris Bosh had an efficient night playing off the King. He went 8-of-11 to score 21 points, including the dagger.

Toney Douglas, Wade’s replacement, struggled quite a bit. Ray Allen didn’t get into a deep groove off the bench and added 10. Despite the Suns’ Morris twins struggling, Miami wasn’t able to capitalize against Phoenix’s bench, but the Suns’ mistakes did them in.

  • EBJM

    That was a heart-breaker. Suns are so close.

    Back in ’92 assistant coach Lionel Hollins said to head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons “We need to go out and get us a Charles Barkley”

    Well this season the Suns need to go out and get us a Lebron James.

    Just a thought but are you guys aware that James is very close to Eric Bledsoe? So much that he considers him family?

    Is there a remote possibility James would like to come play with his “little” brother, Dragic and the Suns?

    Is Phoenix really still too small a city for a Super-Star like James?

  • Scott

    FWIW … Nash has played his 10th game this season, which means he’s no longer eligible for medical retirement. And he left the game with nerve pain.

  • Dominik

    Are there any updates on Bledsoe’s recovery btw? I couldn’t find anything…

  • SarverHater22

    @Ebjm , If Sarver really put his mind to it , he can sell LeBron to come here and play on a very promising team , great weather and he can play with lil brother Eric , who is a younger Wade ,C’mon Sarver pay the King to come to the Valley . McD work your magic .

  • SarverHater22

    Wish Mark West could run and block that LeBron slam from the back .

  • EBJM

    Dominik I haven’t heard of any updates but IMO the earliest we might see Bledsoe would probably be at home March 9, against the Warriors. That would give him the final 21 games to test his knee and get back in shape for the playoffs if the Suns are still holding onto a spot.

  • Emanuel

    In my opinion the Suns lost that game because of Channing frye, the guy just cant play any defense man, guys were just getting by him with such an ease, we can defenately shoot the ball, but if his shot is not going in, that is it for him……..we need a big that can defend the paint and score consistently……..frye ain’t it……one minute you love this guy and the next he just disappoints you………Go Suns….

  • Foreveris2long

    Dominik, I believe Coro gave an update about 7-10 days ago on Bledsoe. He had recently been examined and there were no set backs in his recovery. If memory serves correctly they were going to intensify the workouts. My guess is probably consistent with EBJM that he will return in early March if there are no set backs. Anyway so far so good with his recovery.

  • Foreveris2long

    Gerald Green is playing very well this season. On the other hand I have no idea what has happened to Plumlee. He is virtually non-existent. Not only does Len need more minutes, he needs a few offensive touches to get a feel for the game. Yeah he is going to blow a few with the initial anxiety that he has the ball in the paint but once he gets comfortable he is going to be good.

    We need a low post scorer (Pau), preferably someone who can also defend (not Pau) . If we do not get him in a trade, wait until the summer. Unfortunately there are not a lot of power forwards in the draft.

  • David

    I would just like to say to all those who were saying “TANK FOR WIGGINS” before the season he is currently projected to go number 3. I get that it is a deep draft class but it is the same hype that people were giving about Shabazz Muhammad in high school, and I thought it was a joke then too. Tank got Shabazz was almost as bad as tank for Wiggins. Just glad this is not relevant anymore with suns being a playoff caliber team!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    It makes no sense for the Suns to pull a panic trade at the deadline

    We need to develop our young guys, not waste free agent money on players unless they are going to take us from marginal playoff team to a real contender

    Suns supposedly wanted Zach Randolph or Rudy Gay

    Gay is making 17 mil this year

    Memphis laughed when Mcmiracle asked about Randolph

    i am all for trading assets, like Okafors contract or a younger player like Gerald Green or Bledsoe if we get a really good return on a young prospect and cap space

    Trading for a veteran, unless he is a super star, is worthless

    this team isnt good enough to beat the best in the NBA on a regular basis, so why bother wasting future or current assets?

    Alot of Suns want us to be in the playoffs and i can understand that

    But do you want a team that just makes the playoffs consistently? or do you want a team that goes all the way to the finals?

    Save your money and assets Suns Management

    if your going to make a move, make it in the off season

    You know, if the Suns actually developed their own players, they might have a better and cheaper team than just recklessly throwing money around

    remember the last time the Suns did that?

    that turned into Turkoglu, Warrick and Josh Childress

    that was a disaster

    Turkoglu lasted all of 15 games, Warrick was traded for a future pick that hasnt materialized yet, and Childress was amnestied

    if your gonna spend money, make sure its a superstar not 3 role players that are over payed

    Len has to get more minutes, i dont care how well Channing Frye shoots it from 3

    defense and rebounding wins you games, not contested 3 pointers.

  • DZ

    Even though he’s not a rookie, Plumlee may have hit the “rookie wall”. Considering how little he played last season and how much he has played this season I think that has to be considered.

  • DZ

    The Suns weren’t looking into a trade for Rudy Gay. The rumor was that if Gay decided to opt out of the final year of his contract that the Suns would be interesting in possibly signing him to a new (and more reasonable) contract during the off season. Gay wouldn’t be a bad piece to add to the puzzle IF he could be signed to a fair contract. His present contract is bloated beyond belief and I wouldn’t want him at that price even if it was an expiring contract (which it isn’t).

    Randolph I wouldn’t mind so much since his game is based more on strength than athleticism. But I don’t think he would really be a good fit with the Suns because of that. Can’t blame McD for asking though. I’m sure there are plenty of other players that he’s asked about that we’ve never heard any “rumors” of.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Hey DZ i was talking about last year at the deadline when the Suns wanted Rudy Gay

    yeah i agree his contract is ridiculous

    i dont know if he is going to get that kinda money this off season, but i dont think the Suns are just magically going to get a reasonable deal either if we decide to go after him, and i dont think we should at all

    let someone else over pay

    i also think Plumlee has hit the rookie wall

    when you get the kinda minutes he has this season, going from nothing to 28 minutes a night, you get worn down

    play Len more we have nothing to lose short term or long term

    Goodwin is apparently torching the D league as well, thats nice to hear especially after Kendall Marshall really turned around his game and we gave him away for nothing

  • Foreveris2long

    Dz I am not convinced Rudy Gay is any better than Gerald Green. Just my opinion but I would not go after Gay. Ellensburg we got a 1st round lottery protected pick for Gortat, Matshall and Brown from the Wizards. Now the Wizards did not think much of Marshall and cut him immediately.

  • ellensburgbballfan

    Right, i had forgot about that trade, i thought we had cut him but in fact your right, its the wizards that cut him after we traded him to them

    i saw the Spurs picked up Shannon Brown btw

  • SkyBill40

    This was a winnable game. The Suns had the advantage early on, but then let the Heat’s size get to them. I also can’t count how many risky passes were picked off that lead to fast break layups or dunks. That’s inexcusable.

    As for James coming here, that’s just asinine. There’s simply NO WAY he even considers it. I have the utmost respect for you EBJM, but that’s a silly notion if there ever was one.

    Rudy Gay wouldn’t be a good fit should the Suns look to grab him if he opts out (which he likely won’t). I’d rather have Green and his much more cap friendly number. He’s just as capable as Gay with none of the attitude baggage.