There will be nights like this.
With the Suns playing extreme small ball with Hedo Turkoglu and Channing Frye as their post players, there will be nights when Phoenix’s shot is off and the team can’t make up for it in other areas of the game. That’s especially the case when the opponent boasts LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as we saw in Miami’s 123-96 shellacking of the Suns Wednesday night.
It’s unfortunate that the national television audience had to see this Suns team suffer its worst loss of the season rather than the spirited group that had won five of six coming in, including victories at the Lakers and Atlanta and a home win over Denver.
After a tight first quarter, the Suns went cold in the second during a field goal-less final 4:39 of the period, but Miami never stopped scoring on its way to a 37-19 quarter and a a 21-point halftime lead. Phoenix fought back with an 18-6 run that cut the Heat advantage down to 12 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but Miami turned it into a route with a quick striking 18-3 run to close the quarter that was highlighted by a pair of Eddie House threes.
“They came out and dominated,” Jason Richardson told reporters. “We did not have any energy at all. We didn’t play like we have been playing. We just kind of went through the motions. We never got the pace up like we wanted. We just didn’t do anything that it takes to win the game.”
It’s hard to say how much of that is the result of flying cross country a day after a draining back-to-back against the Lakers and Denver, but this was not the explosive Suns team we saw in Los Angeles or the gritty Suns squad that came from behind to defeat the Nuggets.
This was a Suns team that couldn’t buy a three much to the chagrin of many people in our cufflinks contest, knocking down just 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) as the Heat did a great job rotating to shooters and not letting the Suns get many good looks. For the game the Suns also shot an uncharacteristic 44.4 percent.
Steve Nash scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting but dished out just a pair of assists, including none in the first half for the first time since April 2003 with Dallas, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That’s the first time he recorded just two assists since Dec. 29, 2008, a span of 141 games, and it was only the ninth time in 737 career games Nash played at least 29 minutes but did not pass out more than a pair of dimes, according to STATS LLC.
“It kind of sums up our night,” Nash said. “We never really got a rhythm, and we were really passive tonight. They just outplayed us the entire game. We only have ourselves to blame. We didn’t play really hard. We didn’t play with enough aggressiveness and urgency. We obviously missed a lot of shots that we normally make. It was one of those nights where we weren’t in the front of our brains.”
Nash played through an injured groin that almost caused him to sit the game out. Afterward Nash told reporters it “was pretty sore” and that he “kind of took a little risk” but that he doesn’t feel he “did serious damage to it.”
With the Suns playing their only fourth game in five nights of the season tomorrow in Orlando, it could be wise to give Nash the night off. It wouldn’t hurt to rest Nash on a fourth in five anyway, and if this could help him finish the road trip strong in more winnable games it might be worth it.
On the other end of things, Chris Bosh starred brightest of Miami’s stars. The Heat got him involved early, as he took the team’s first five shots and went for his average (14) in the first quarter alone.
Bosh finished his breakout game with a season-high 35 points on 12-for-17 shooting to go with six boards and four assists, with all his work coming in the first three quarters. He carved up the Suns both in their man and zone defenses, doing the majority of his work on the perimeter with his sweet jumper.
“We know he is capable,” Nash said. “He got in a great rhythm early, and just seemed to make everything. He played terrific.”
Perhaps Bosh’s game was sparked by not wanting to be “Like a Bosh” anymore or perhaps it was just going against the Suns’ front line, but Bosh looked nothing like the bust he has been thus far.
Flanked by James’ 20-8-9 and Wade’s 17-6-6 the Suns really had no shot at that end, especially with Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House combining for five treys.
Looking for bright spots, the Suns yielded just nine offensive boards (despite getting outrebounded 42-32) although perhaps that’s because the Heat didn’t have many offensive rebounds to get after shooting 54.7 percent.
Channing Frye continued his solid offensive play of late by scoring 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting a pair of threes and Grant Hill’s 15 points helped keep the Suns close for a while.
In the end, the Suns just couldn’t defend the Heat (surprise, surprise), with Bosh being the beneficiary of extra attention paid to James and Wade. This was a game the Suns needed to shoot like they did in Los Angeles to have a chance, and their tired legs prevented that from happening.
“We couldn’t score,” Hill said. “We had good looks but we just couldn’t make them. Sometimes that is going to happen. It is unfortunate when it happens against a really good team on national television. We have to learn from this. The margin of error is pretty small for this team.”