In the first half, Phoenix got little to no production out of T.J. Warren. Combined with him and Mike James, only 9 total points. From there, it was playing catch up as they scrapped until the very end.
Warren finished with 16, but no secondary option allowed Miami to have a double-digit lead almost all the entire first half, which led to Phoenix’s demise in trying to attempt their comeback throughout.
To make up for this, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels combined for 19 points, but that’s definitely not a good sign folks.
In a prove-it type of performance, Alex Len was plagued by early foul trouble going up against Hassan Whiteside. However, the promising thing out of this was seeing Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender share the floor together for the first time under interim head coach Jay Triano.
Chriss was matched up on Whiteside most of the time, but there was a 5-minute stretch where Bender guarded him and shut him down. I watched this matchup closely and on multiple occasions, I saw Bender lock Whiteside out of post-up attempts or establishing his footing. Whiteside finished that sequence with 0 points.
However, there were a lot more negatives than positives to take away from this obviously.
This team needs scoring in the worst way, and some semblance of transition defense, too. Far too often did the likes of Johnson, Dragic, and Olynyk have easy outside looks. For one of the worst teams in this category, it likely has a firm grip on the bottom spot, as far as advanced metrics go.
As the league’s youngest roster, this is to be expected. And we all thought Phoenix would end up with a top pick anyway, but it definitely feels like they are regressing back to the mean following their firing of Earl Watson.
Suns starters: James, Booker, Warren, Chriss, Len
Heat starters: Dragic, Richardson, Winslow, White, Whiteside
Miami opened up with their inside-out approach of Hassan Whiteside and he made his presence felt less than 2 minutes in off a putback slam over Alex Len. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra is telling them to actually push the pace and try to run with the 2nd fastest team in terms of overall pace. Interesting strategy for a usual half-court offense.
Len hesitated to go against Whiteside, settled for a 15-footer that clanked off the rim.
Triano called timeout after Miami opened on a 10-2 run the first three minutes.
Out of the timeout, Triano sets up Booker off a screen to drive-and-dish to Warren in the corner. Booker did everything right, actually perfectly looked off Whiteside, but Warren was unable to make it. I’m sensing this might be a trend until they get more help from the perimeter.
Dragan Bender checks in for Marquese Chriss as the first sub off the bench with 7:43 left in the first.
Len is called for back-to-back moving screens and is already in foul trouble. Jared Dudley checks in for him, as Bender now draws the Whiteside assignment likely the rest of the quarter.
Jared Dudley saved a possession under the basket, but there haven't been many highlights thus far for Phoenix who trailed 24-12 at this point. Miami’s defense is suffocating them into simple mistakes.
Triano gets Dudley open in the corner for a three, then James Johnson answers right back from the corner himself. Since Dudley was inserted into the game, the spacing and overall ball movement has been much crisp without Chriss.
Troy Daniels checks in for Booker and immediately he hit a three-pointer, but once again James Johnson was allowed space by Dudley to match him seconds later.
At the end of the first, Miami led 36-27, as Phoenix helped cut the deficit with a lineup featuring Dudley, Bender, and Josh Jackson who was the fourth sub off the bench. Dudley led the way for the Suns with 8 points and aided the overall ball movement for them from the jump.
Miami came out scoring hot from beyond the arc, as Kelly Olynyk, Johnson, and Goran Dragic hit a barrage in the first segment. Triano was forced to call timeout as the Heat’s lead expanded to 47-31.
Even though Miami opened on a 9-4 run, Triano stuck with Daniels out there instead of Booker to start the second.
Would imagine that Warren needs to step it up, who just scored his first basket 16 minutes in. Far too often has this been occurring, which leads to spurts of no offense. You can’t rely on James to be your third option nighty, which seems to be the case now with no Bledsoe anymore.
Led by Daniels, Phoenix went on an 11-3 run before Booker checked back in. When Daniels catches fire, it’s hard to stop. Triano rolling with Booker at the 3 while Daniels and James share the backcourt. That’s how you fix your perimeter woes.
After Len picked up his third personal, we get to see Chriss and Bender share the floor for the first time under Triano, with Chriss at the 5.
Miami closed the half on another run to stretch their lead they have kept all game to 15. The Heat led 69-54.
Triano tries to get Warren going at the opening portion on a quick post-up. His scoring will be much needed if any sort of comeback wants to be pulled off. Then, Chriss hit his second three of the game, this time in traffic which was nice to see compared to his usual transition wide-open attempt.
It’s pretty apparent early that Triano wants this team to kick it up a notch. Noticeable speed change on both ends.
Miami’s lead was trimmed to 10 with 6:19 left in the third after Chriss hit his third three. With Chriss, his development from the outside will continue to be monitored but this is a good sign this early on.
This game has been all about pace and runs, but Phoenix has been unable to make this game anywhere below a 6-point deficit. Booker’s offensive evolution, though, is fun to watch. He hit a beautiful shot off the glass to avoid contact driving in. The bevy of tricky moves this 21-year-old has up his sleeve already is special.
Triano continuing to try and get Warren going, but I need to ask at this point why Josh Jackson doesn’t get subbed in more often?
Yes, I’m likely one of the bigger Jackson supporters as far as his ceiling goes, but wish he would get some more opportunities to flash his unique skill set compared to the likes of Dudley. Only 6 minutes Jackson has played so far but has 2 fouls and 2 turnovers.
Following a Dudley three, Phoenix cuts the lead back to 6 with just over a minute in the third. Jackson waiting at the scorer's table to be checked in, so expect a stint stretching into the beginning of the fourth for him.
Before checking out, Warren attempted 8 shots and was 50% (8 points, 0-2 FT) in the third.
Suns are only down 8 at the end of the quarter, 94-86.
At the start of the 4th, Phoenix rolls with Ulis, Daniels, Jackson, Dudley, and Bender. They quickly allow a 3-pointer, expanding the lead back to double-digits.
Jackson, however, has struggled tonight. Three turnovers in 7 minutes for Phoenix’s top selection. He still is out there moving way too quick for his own good, which showed as he tripped over himself near the basket while being guarded.
Miami’s lead is already back up to 15 with this lineup in, by the way.
Jackson just attempted a funky mid-range attempt. As I mentioned, Jackson is still trying to find his shots on the floor but he’s still trying to translate his moves from Kansas over to the professional level.
Booker has been having to work hard for his points, especially in the second half as they have keyed in on him. He has 10 through 18 minutes, 25 total with half of the fourth remaining. And he just found Warren on an outlet in transition to cut it back to 10.
The Suns have made a valiant effort cutting it again to 6 with just over 2 minutes remaining but they are having a hard time getting stops on the other end. Then, on the next possession, Waiters hits a three to extend it back above double-digits at 11, seemingly putting the nail in the coffin with 90 seconds left.
Phoenix falls to 4-8 on the year after 0-3 and 4-1 stretches under Watson and Triano, while Miami now improves to 4-7.