Suns Sizzle with Solid Shooting, Mute Miami

Jan 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) moves the ball in front of Miami Heat forward Luke Babbitt (5) in the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) moves the ball in front of Miami Heat forward Luke Babbitt (5) in the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second straight night, the Suns opponent was missing important components. Unlike in LA, Phoenix managed to win the day.

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Without Hassan Whiteside (right retinal contusion), Justise Winslow (right shoulder injury), Dion Waiters (groin strain), James Johnson (migraine), and Tyler Johnson (food poisoning), the Miami Heat’s roster looked more like a listing of patients in a hospital ward than that of an NBA team.

That being said, with eight healthy players remaining, and Goran Dragic attempting to once again exact revenge against his former team, the Heat were not about to give up, even if they were severely out-handed.

Miami actually led for the entire first quarter and looked the part of a well-rested team having not played since Boston on Sunday. The Heat didn’t give up the lead for good until halfway through the second quarter, though the Suns led by no more than 5 in the first half, and by only 4 at halftime. There was no doubt that Miami still had a shot.

Goran Dragic led all scorers with 22 points at half and was looking well on his way to setting a season high in scoring, and possibly carrying the injury-depleted Heat to an improbable victory over the healthier home team (the Suns were without Brandon Knight with a right wrist sprain).

Fortunately for Suns fans Phoenix jumped out of the starting gate quick and fast in the third quarter and suddenly the Heat looked liked they had lost their legs and the Suns – who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back – found the spring in their jump.

Leading by 19 late in the third and by 17 going into the fourth, the Heat threatened, but could never get back to within 7 points of Phoenix as the Suns wore them down late.

This was Phoenix’s 5th consecutive game scoring less than 100 points, winning 2 of 5 in that stretch. The last time Phoenix went 5 games without scoring 100 points was March 22 – March 30, 2015.

Devin Booker made 3 of 6 from long ranger and finished with 27 points leading all scorers.

Marquese Chriss set a career high with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting.

Seasonal rookie scoring high’s over the past five years are:

11-12: Markieff Morris – 22
12-13: Kendall Marshall – 11
13-14: Alex Len – 9
14-15: TJ Warren – 17
15-16: Devin Booker – 35

Tyson Chandler did what he does best – rebound the ball. Only scoring 5 points, Chandler snagged 20 boards – three in the waning moments to seal the deal – the third time in the last thirty days, and the fifth time in his two seasons with the Phoenix Suns.

Eric Bledsoe had a very poor shooting night going 4-14 from, but made 7-8 free throws to score 17 points. He added in 7 assists (his fourth consecutive game with over 7 assists, the first time he has done so all season), 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. His +11 led all players.

As mentioned, Goran Dragic went into halftime with 22 points, but scored only two in the second half after getting into some foul trouble and finished with 24. His 9 assists led all passers.

Willie Reed – no relation to Willis Reed – stepped into the starting role with Hassan Whiteside out with the eye injury and dropped in Hassan Whiteside-like numbers with 22 points on 68.8% shooting, 18 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots.

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Thoughts from the Valley of the Suns

It is hard to be critical when winning a home game by 9 in which the Suns held an opponent to 90 points and had a lead of 19 at one point.

This was a game that the Suns should win, and unlike the night before against the Clippers when the Suns should have won that as well, they did. The Heat were severally short-handed, and they came into the game with the same paltry 10-25 record as the Suns, but after a tough first 18 minutes, Phoenix worked their way into the lead and never relinquished, doing what they should do in this situation.

It was nice seeing Booker scoring 27 points. I just wish that he and Bledsoe could more regularly do so. Presuming they are both part of the team’s future, there is a good chance that that can happen in the next year or two, but the anticipation is killing me.

Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and Tyler Ulis each had their moments of “wow” tonight, again, something that we unfortunately have to wait to see occur with regularity.

I am still not a fan at all of playing Tucker so many minutes (he played 32), and as much as I do truly admire what Tyson Chandler is doing, if the Suns can manage to trade for a center like Jahlil Okafor, I would happily be willing to see Chandler then traded to a contender to give himself the opportunity to win one more time, and focus on going young 100% of the time.