Heat Put Out the Suns With Several Large Runs

Feb 26, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks a basket in the fourth quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks a basket in the fourth quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The short-handed Suns did their best tonight to remain as competitive as possible, although eventually Miami did crank up the Heat and turn the Suns to steam.

With a portion of the Phoenix roster placed in handcuffs to allow the Young Suns to gain valuable experience with regular minutes, the Suns are bound to lose a great majority of their games the remainder of the season. Tonight was a game that they “should” lose, and lose they did, never really able to remain competitive after the first quarter.

Just prior to the game the Suns found out that they would be without the help of double-double machine Alan Williams who was suffering from a stomach ailment. An already depleted rotation thus became even moreso, meaning extended time for Alex Len – which would normally be a problem considering his rampant personal foul issues. It also meant that players who are already receiving tons of minutes, would be extended even further tonight.

Up three points after one, it became apparent that the starting rotation of Warren, Chriss, Len, Booker (who returned from resting his ankle against Detroit) and Ulis, would receive the bulk of the minutes as Warren, Len, and Ulis each played the entire first quarter, with Chriss and Booker missing only 1:58. That lineup worked for one period, but the rotation would lose it’s grip on the game quickly beginning in the second.

Outscored by 16 in the second frame, including a 28-10 run over the final 8:17 of the period, the third quarter was no better as the out-matched Suns succumbed to a 15-0 run expanding the Head lead to 22 with 4:57 remaining at 76-54. The fourth was more of the same as the Heat used a 24-8 run to stretch there lead to a game high 24 points with 2:54 remaining, the Suns’ worst deficit since February 11 when the Houston Rockets demolished Phoenix and led by as many as 40.

Since the Miami Heat began their improbable mid-season turnaround on January 17 that began with a 13-game winning streak, they are 24-6, the best record in the period in the NBA. Since then Miami has moved from the second worst team in the league, to a current position in 8th place in the East, and only 2.5 games behind the 5th seed Atlanta Hawks. With the victory tonight the Heat avenged a 9-point loss to Phoenix on January 3, exactly two weeks before the miraculous turnaround began.

Although the Young Suns held tough in the first period, they never found an offensive rhythm and they were simply out-played by a team who has proven they can now defeat anyone in the league on any given night. While at this point the Suns are playing for pride, the Heat are playing for history and let the Young Suns feel like they had a place in this game before they truly did turn the heat up.

In only his fourth career start Tyler Ulis had his first disappointing game in this position finishing with 9 points on 4-11 shooting, 6 assists, and a career-high 5 turnovers. Coming 59 seconds away from breaking his career-high in minutes played for the fourth consecutive game, Ulis was over-matched from the outset and while the Suns as a whole were having difficulty scoring, Ulis was unable to be the play-maker to set up a potent offense that he has proven he can be.

Devin Booker scored only 11 points on 4-16 shooting, and although his missed the Detroit game due to the prior mentioned ankle injury, he is 7-29 from the field in his last two games, and 13-55 from the field and 3-15 from three since Eric Bledsoe’s benching. It does appear that no one remaining on the active roster has suffered more from Bledsoe being shut down than Booker. Book also finished with 7 turnovers, tying his season-high, and falling two short of his career-high.

In his extended playing time, Alex Len put together a solid stat line with 12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, and only 3 personal fouls – with Alan Williams unavailable, had Len and Marquese Chriss succumbed to serious foul trouble as they are prone to do, Earl Watson would have been in trouble trying to put forward a lineup capable of dealing with any size confronted by Miami.

Chriss was the lone offensive bright spot for Phoenix scoring a game-high 24 points on 7-9 shooting including 2-2 from beyond the arc. He grabbed 7 rebounds as well, but still committed 5 personal fouls and a career-high 6 turnovers. His turnover total was a complete spike from his normal possession consistency as his prior high was 4 which he set on opening night and only tied once all the way back on November 13.

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Prior to tearing a gash in his right hand with only 2:08 remaining and the Heat up 24 (injuries in those situations are the WORST) Hassan Whiteside had recorded 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocked shots. With 3:54 remaining, Whiteside grabbed the rebound off a missed Tyler Ulis jump shot setting the Heat franchise record for rebounds in a season with 935, breaking Rony Seikaly’s record set in 1991-92.

Former Sun Goran Dragic finished with 16 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, and Willie Reed each scored in double-figures off the bench, combining for 50 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 steals (including 5 from Johnson alone), and only 4 turnovers.