EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns play solid, sound basketball for 3 quarters to defeat Heat

Jan 29, 2024, 8:18 PM

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #13 and Haywood Highsm...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #13 and Haywood Highsmith #24 of the Miami Heat during the first quarter of the game at Kaseya Center on January 29, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

It was not up there with some of the Phoenix Suns’ best performances of the season but they need more wins like Monday’s 118-105 final over the Miami Heat.

Phoenix was just very solid for three full quarters, doing enough and not letting any area of the game get away from them (before the usual scare in the final frame we’ll get to). It produced good shot-making, moved the ball well, didn’t commit too many errors defensively and took care of the ball.

The Suns were coming off a 23-turnover outing in Orlando that was largely why they lost, the second straight defeat with an outrageous discrepancy in shot attempts. On Monday, their first turnover came with 6:34 left in the second quarter and they ended the night with just eight.

Offensive rebounding was 10-8 Suns, so with the Heat really lacking any shot-making of their own, the fixture wasn’t much of a problem for Phoenix. It led by 20 midway through the third quarter, fully taking advantage of Miami shooting just 34.5% at the time, unlike the Orlando loss when the Suns shot 25% better in the first half but only led by five.

The Suns extended the advantage to 25 late in the third quarter and Miami’s lack of energy indicated we were done for the evening. The Heat lost their seventh consecutive game, their longest streak since March 2008, and they looked the part.

Then the fourth quarter came, and after an 8-0 Heat run to begin it, Phoenix called a timeout and got Devin Booker back in the game. He was only able to rest for a little over two minutes of game time and somewhat helped stabilize things, although Miami did disrupt the rhythm of the game enough to get within 13 at under five minutes remaining.

Miami deployed its usual variety of zone defense to junk up the game and succeeded in at least throwing off the Suns’ rhythm. Phoenix was able to create decent looks but couldn’t knock many of them down, shooting 7-for-24 (29.2%). The previous work done, though, had the cushion so large that Miami only got as close as 11 before a Bradley Beal 3 with 2:24 left to put the Suns up 16 was the dagger.

The scouting reports now definitely include an emphasis on the Suns’ fourth quarters. Miami was surely always going to go to that zone to open the final frame, knowing it would very likely muddle the pace to make the Suns more erratic, a problem they speak on often.

But overall, what had pushed a good outing over the top for Phoenix was a great night for the bench. Drew Eubanks put in an excellent first shift when a returning Jusuf Nurkic got two early fouls. Eubanks finished with 11 points, Josh Okogie also chipped in 11 and Eric Gordon added a team-high 23.

This was the night the streak of six straight 40-point outbursts ended, and Phoenix didn’t even need a member of the Big 3 to reach 30. The trio combined for 21 assists and two turnovers, with seven assists apiece for Beal, Booker and Kevin Durant. Booker scored 22 points, Durant got up to 20 and it was 19 for Beal, who looked more comfortable with a new mask for his nasal fracture.

The Suns generated 30 assists after just 19 on Sunday.

Grayson Allen injured his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return. He lightly elevated to contest a jumper on defense and had his right foot land under Josh Okogie’s.

The slo-mo replay didn’t show too extreme of an aggravation or tweak, which the Suns will hope is good news as he gets evaluated on Tuesday. Allen, like Nurkic, has been invaluable this season and Phoenix is a different, worse team when he’s not out there.

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