PHOENIX — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Suns could not finish what they started, while the Heat have perhaps the best finisher in the game.
LeBron James scored 14 of his game-high and Suns’ opponent season-high 37 points in the fourth quarter as Miami beat the Suns, 103-97. It was the Heat’s sixth straight win in Phoenix and eighth straight overall in the series.
James was one of four Heat players in double figures. Chris Bosh added 21, Mario Chalmers 13 and Norris Cole 10 off the bench.
The Suns, who jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the game, were led by Gerald Green’s 26 points, 21 coming in the second half.
Turnovers, however, proved costly.
The Suns committed 16 turnovers, leading to 24 Heat points.
“We had some crucial turnovers at the end,” Channing Frye said.
The Suns were outscored 32-23 in the fourth quarter with James responsible for the Heat’s final 14 points. He scored 11 and assisted on Bosh’s three that put Miami ahead 99-92 with 40.9 remaining.
“That was like a dagger for us,” said Goran Dragic, who missed eight of his 12 shots to finish with 15 points.
Despite the loss, the Suns go into the All-Star Break with a record of 30-21 (.588), which is their best winning percentage at the break since sitting at 37-16 (.698) at the break in 2007-08
PJ Tucker scored 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter.
Green recorded his 14th game of the season scoring 20 or more points.
The Suns scored the first 12 points of the game hitting 5-of-8 shot attempts, while forcing the Heat into five straight misses and two turnovers. The 12-point advantage was the largest lead for either team in the game.
Green and Frye combined to score 22 of the team’s 28 third quarter points, helping the Suns close the quarter on a 19-9 run to take a 74-71 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the first half, the Suns held the Heat, the league’s top shooting team (50.8 percent, the only club shooting above 50 percent) to 38.1 percent.
The Suns’ loss snaps a 10-game winning streak in games in which Green scored 20 or more points.
Dragic saw his streak of consecutive games scoring 20 or more points come to an end at a career-long seven straight.
As good as they started, the Suns finished the first quarter missing five straight shots and turning the ball over twice. Add three more missed field goal attempts and a turnover to begin the second quarter and the Suns went almost six minutes without scoring, allowing the Heat to go on a 10-0 run.
The Suns went through another dry spell late in the fourth quarter, going nearly five minutes between made field goals. They missed three shots and turned it over four times, never getting closer than three points the final six minutes of the game.
In the second half, the Suns allowed the Heat, the league’s top shooting team (50.8 percent, the only club shooting above 50 percent) to 58.8 percent.
STAT OF THE GAME
After shooting 1-of-11 from three in the first half, the Heat made 8-of-16 threes in the second half, including hitting 5-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
HE SAID IT
“A team like that they have won championships, they make plays at the end of games, they have done it for at least two years now, two-and-a-half years so you have to be sharp,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You have to understand that they will be anticipating certain things and you have to be able to make those plays.”
James’ 37 points tops his own 35-point performance in the Heat’s first game against the Suns on November 25 in Miami for the Suns’ opponent season-high.
Michael Beasley, the former Sun, failed to make an on-court appearance in his first return visit. He has not played the past three games.
Dwyane Wade did not play, missing 14th game of the season. “Dwyane actually is still at the hotel. He is not going to play tonight. He has a migraine,” head coach Erik Spoelstra announced pregame. “It started to set in this afternoon and he wasn’t feeling much better. He wanted to play. We will just have to see how he feels later on.”
Several Arizona Cardinals players were in attendance including Larry Fitzerald (courtside), Daryl Washington and Lorenzo Alexander. Also spotted among the season-high crowd of 17,927 were former Suns great and current GCU head basketball coach Dan Majerle as well as former ASU Sun Devil and current Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Terrell Suggs.
The NBA All-Star Break. The Suns will enjoy the next five days off before recovening for practice next Monday. Their next game is in one week, Tuesday, February 18 at Denver. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns have won the first three meetings this season, including a 21-point comeback to win 103-99 in the most recent game at Denver on December 20. With a victory in the final meeting, the Suns will sweep the Nuggets for the first time since the 2004-05 season.