With the defending champs coming to town, the Suns looked to make another statement win against an elite team. Though they remained competitive throughout the game, the Suns still lost to the Heat 103-97 on Tuesday night.
Phoenix jumped out to a 12-0 lead early, but ended the first quarter leading 25-22. They fought to maintain a slight lead for most of the remainder of the game, until the Heat edged over them in the fourth quarter and held on to get the win. Two free throws by LeBron James made it a 6-point game with 25 seconds to go. While the Suns have pulled the occasional miracle, they didn’t manage it tonight.
The Suns put up a full effort, but they didn’t get the best results. Gerald Green led with 26 points, 21 in the second half. P.J. Tucker followed up a career night with 15 points, eight boars, and five assists, one of which was a spectacular behind the back pass under the basket. Goran Dragic had a weaker night, putting up 15 points on 4-12 shooting, but adding nine assists.
This game showed the two things the Suns need to be a complete team. One is Eric Bledsoe back. Goran Dragic is of course an excellent point guard, but he can’t shoulder the burden himself. When he was on the bench, the Suns offense went flat. Ish Smith is a fair stopgap, but if Bledsoe were in, the backcourt duo would be far more formidable. With about a minute left in the game, Gerald Green took the ball up for what looked to be the Suns last chance to make in a winnable game. Green ended up with a turnover. Green is a good player, but he is by nature not a facilitator, and in a system where two point guards manage an offense, it isn’t always plausible to substitute a point guard with someone who isn’t one.
The second is someone who can play tough inside. This can be a current player or someone the Suns acquire in the future, but someone needs to step up and hold down the paint.. We’ve seen the Suns get outrebounded and beaten in points in the paint, but the top teams won’t let those shortfalls go unpunished. Alex Len, Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee, and Channing Frye all do a decent job, but there is a great need for improvement if the Suns want to regularly beat the best teams in the NBA,
Still, it is admirable that the Suns managed to keep the game close throughout. It says a lot of how far the team has come to have no fear in the face of an intimidating foe.
The Suns slide to 30-21 with this loss, though they still hold a playoff spot. The Suns will play next Tuesday in Denver after a rest for the All-Star break.