The Phoenix Suns were looking to win five consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 26, 2014. Standing between them and a 5-0 record in the Orlando Bubble was a beleaguered Miami Heat squad, missing All-Star Jimmy Butler (right foot), starting PG Kendrick Nunn (left bubble), and bench thorn-in-the-Suns-side Goran Dragic (left ankle).
Social distancing is the standard these days. Every corporate entity has paid an unfathomable amount of dollars to create signage that effectively communicates the need to be six feet apart. For the Phoenix Suns, the distance between themselves and the opposition clearly must violate rules, because the whistles continued to come early and often against Miami on Saturday.
Two early fouls on Rubio in just over 3 minutes.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) August 8, 2020
Credit the game plan for the undermanned Heat. Their goal? To follow the Dallas blueprint and attack the rim. Tyler Herro, known for his jump shooting abilities, made it a point to drive to the rim with regularity early in this game. Of Herro’s nine shots in the first half, seven came from inside the arc. Coming into the game, 51.8 percent of Herro’s shot were from downtown.
Phoenix came out firing, and with good ball movement, they found themselves open. Unfortunately those shots weren’t initially falling in the first. The team began 0-5 from beyond the arc. It wasn’t until 5:39 left in the first quarter that the team canned their first deep ball. And it was Dario Saric that hit it. Just like you drew it up.
His shot sparked a 9-0 run for the Suns.
9-0 run to get back into this one early. pic.twitter.com/Rcbe3g6i7U— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 8, 2020
Booker continued to display his ability to make shots that are harder than beating Contra. Shots like these are a cheat code. Bust out your Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, A, B, Select, Start on this one.
Quick side note: Happy birthday to the newest fan favorite, Cameron Payne!
CAM PAYNE IS HITTING 3'S ON HIS BIRTHDAY— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) August 9, 2020
The Suns continued to trail in the first half, but with the efforts of Cam Payne and Jevon Carter, they began to close that gap, taking the lead briefly with 8:14 left in the second on a Carter three-ball.
Cam Payne and Jevon Carter helping close the gap. They've talked about how comfortable they are playing together in the backcourt and it's showing again today— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) August 9, 2020
Miami didn’t allow Phoenix to hang on to the lead for long. The sharpshooting I warned of didn’t come from Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro in the first half. No, it came in the form of the seventh-year forward from Marquette, Jae Crowder. He went 3-4 from deep in the first half.
Miami’s defensive game plan? Double Booker. Cam Johnson continued to display his defense, athleticism in the open court, and three-point shooting ability early on. These back-to-back possessions highlighted the growth of Johnson. He becomes the fastest Sun to hit 100 career three-pointers with his shot here.
Cam with a quick three and a slam.— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 9, 2020
Everybody showing up today pic.twitter.com/e69fJ6fgwa
And then of course there is the force known as Devon Armani Booker. He closed the first half with an offensive flurry of layups, dunks, and free throws. Devin scored nine of his 21 first half points in the last 2:32. Cam Johnson added 12, and Saric contributed eight. Three members of the Heat (Crowder, Herro, and Robinson) were in double figures heading into the half.
The teams were tied at halftime, 60-60.
Deandre Ayton found himself sleep walking in this game. Even with the undersized interior of Miami, DA was not crashing the glass, backing down switched defenders, blocking out, or imposing his will. This isn’t something new, as Ayton likes to let his game come to him rather than seek to dominate the competition.
That was a string of possessions to get Crowder on Ayton. Didn't lead to much but then an offensive rebound is right there and Rubio sets him up for another. Hopefully that's what he needed.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) August 9, 2020
Rubio instinctively attempted to try to get Ayton involved on this play.
Rubio getting DA involved.— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 9, 2020
Suns lead 72-69 with 7 minutes left in the third. pic.twitter.com/auCDWRJxkU
Devin Booker continued to provide the bulk of the offensive production in the third quarter. His creative scoring ability is Kobe-esque. Phoenix scored 28 points in the third. Booker accounted for 10 of those points.
As K-Ray said on the broadcast, “Filthy by Devin Booker.”
Devin's up to 31 points and the buckets are only getting smoother. pic.twitter.com/DegduKA3mP— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 9, 2020
Tyler Herro continued pose problems in the third and seemed destined to surpass his career high of 29 points, scoring nine more points in the third. Duncan Robinson began to find his stroke as well, hitting 3-5 from deep in the quarter. His distribution skills were on display as well, finding Bam Adebayo on this take.
Duncan's lobs are getting as pretty as his shot pic.twitter.com/sNaZyb4Trx— x - Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) August 9, 2020
Suns up 2, 88-86, after three.
The bench units started the fourth off sloppy, hitting a total of seven points in the first three-and-a-half minutes between them. Enter the majority of the starters and enter the points.
Timeout Miami as the Suns take a 95-90 lead with 7:56 to go.— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) August 9, 2020
The five-point advantage is the Suns' largest of the game.
Coming into the game, Jevon Carter’s season high for Phoenix (shockingly) was 15. Saturday night was his best effort in the bubble and best of the season. His three point stroke was dialed in, shooting 6-8 from deep for a total of 20 points. He continued to display his hustle and effort, putting continual pressure on the opposition.
The Heat kept the game close late, continuing to find the bottom of the net with their accuracy from deep. This is the best team in the NBA from the three point line, after all. The Suns outscored the Heat from deep, shooting 37.5 percent to Miami’s 30.6 percent.
The Suns went up seven with just over a minute to play on a fanatic pass from Booker to a cutting Bridges. Even KOC had to give it some love.
Mikal Bridges is such a great cutter. Perfectly timed his move to the rim for Devin Booker to find him. Clutch play.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) August 9, 2020
The final minutes saw Miami try to scrap their way to victory, but with late free throws by Deandre and a goal-tended bucket by Booker, the Suns held on to outscore the Heat 31-26 in the fourth, winning the game 119-112.
Was it pretty? No. But we don’t care about pretty. We care about wins.
Devin Booker scored 35, Ayton had 18 points and 12 boards, and Ricky Rubio added seven points, eight assists, and 10 rebounds.
The Suns bench outscored Miami 35-25, led by Jevon Carter’s 20. Thank you, C4, for blowing up when the Suns needed you.
Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday morning at 11:30 a.m. MST.