Tonight the Phoenix Suns face the LeBron-less Miami HEAT (7:00 pm AZ time on FoxSports Arizona (TV) and ArizonaSports 98.7 (radio)).
The Suns will play their fourth game in five nights, the prior three games being big battles in the attempt to establish the ability to beat playoff-caliber teams on the road. Unfortunately, the Suns came up short two out of three times.
Last night, the Suns lost to the Clippers in overtime on a rim-busting three-pointer by Blake Griffin that was so off it was good. Griffin couldn't believe it went in. No one could. But it did. And that's that.
The Suns must pick themselves up off the floor and beat the beatable teams this week - first Miami on Tuesday night and then Detroit on Friday. Neither game will be easy, but the Suns cannot make excuses. There's no excuse for lack of effort this week at home.
Miami is struggling this year, losers of four straight and five of six. Their offense has topped 100 points just twice since November 9 and both of those were losses. But their offense is better than their defense, which is ranked 26th in the NBA in points per possession allowed.
Where Miami remains relevant is slowing down the pace of the game (29th in pace), and we all know the Suns have trouble playing teams who play a really slow pace. The Suns like to get out and run, and Miami tries very hard to limit those opportunities.
The HEAT are led by the remaining two of the Big Three. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both average over 21 points per game. Mario Chalmers is now their third best player, averaging a career high in points (13.8) and steals (1.8 per game) on just one more minute per game than last year. Chalmers had a really good scoring run when Wade was out, but has been up and down since. What a difference a Bron makes.
Their big offseason acquisitions have been disappointing so far. Luol Deng is providing just 13.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while Josh McRoberts is even worse: 3.9 points, 2.6 rebounds in 16 games.
Old Suns player Shannon Brown has been coming off the pine lately, playing the HEAT's last three games including a 36-minute run against Orlando where he scored 7 points.
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Oh. My. God. Gut wrenching.
Eric Bledsoe celebrated his last night as a 24 year old by trying everything he could to beat his old team, the Clippers: 27 points, career-high 16 assists, 11 rebounds, first ever triple double, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was all over the place, but he couldn't do it all.
Wish Eric a Happy Birthday today!
Alex Len had 14 and 7 off the bench, and just when we all started wondering when he would make the starting lineup he went out and rookie'd the fourth quarter, getting stuffed multiple times and failing to secure any more rebounds. He's just 21 folks, same age as Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein. He's going to get better and better.
Markieff Morris made his last two three-point attempts to put the Suns up by 4 with 30 seconds to go in overtime, a margin that should have been good enough to win. This Suns team could be devastating again if Morris could hit those consistently this season.
But then P.J. Tucker got tied up on the ensuing rebound. Then the Suns lost the tip, it bouncing off three players into J.J. Redick's lap for a quick layup. Then the Suns air balled a shot at the buzzer, allowing for a shot-clock turnover. Then Gerald Green and Jeff Hornacek didn't call timeout when they might have been able to. Then Blake Griffin happened. But it wouldn't have happened if the Suns could have done one more positive thing in that last 30 seconds.
Last year's Suns-HEAT series
Any games against the HEAT the last four years don't count. This isn't the same HEAT team, by a long shot.
How they compare
After the Clipper game on Monday night, the key matchup for the Suns is going to be their ability to come back from that loss. That was a horrible, awful loss that probably kept every player up all night pissed about it.
Now, with their fourth game in five nights, will the Suns have anything left?
Out on a limb
I'm guessing Isaiah Thomas makes his return tonight and gives the tired Suns a much-needed shot in the arm.
Suns win this one going away. They need some good vibrations after such a frustrating road trip.