The middle of the Phoenix Suns (20-20) season remains a disaster. First, they came out shooting less than 40% from the field, then Chris Paul goes down with a sore hip. They’ve now lost 13 of their last 17 games.
The Suns kept it close with spirited defensive effort, even getting Miami’s lead down to one (74-73) late in the third quarter, but never could keep it up and eventually went down painfully and inexorably to a methodical Miami Heat (21-19) team that needed the win as badly as the Suns did.
They pulled within six points, 102-96, with just over a minute left but did not convert their next possession and Miami closed it out.
Suns lose, 104-96.
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 2 assists. Mikal Bridges had 15 points (career high 10-10 free throws), 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. Torrey Craig chipped in 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Duane Washington Jr. had 13 points and 7 assists off the bench.
Former All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo led Miami in scoring with a season high 26 points while Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both topped 20 like their season averages.
The Suns now drop to 9th in the West (a win would have vaulted them into 6th; that’s how close the West is), and might be without both Paul and Booker, as well as the Cams and Jae (of course), as their season cannot be halted for injury timeout.
First of all, I have no idea how to explain this except that some Suns friends had a crazy idea when I retired the Solar Panel podcast, another one designed it, and yet another (or two?) bought it.
But here it is, and its a rare find. There’s at least 2 of these in real life existence that I know of.
I now have to start a bucket list, if only to put this on and cross it off. ;)
If anyone is dying for one of these babies, you can find it among all the other cool designs at John Voita’s redbubble page here: https://www.redbubble.com/people/sunsjamsession/shop
Now on to the game...
- Suns: Devin Booker (groin), Cam Johnson (knee), Cam Payne (foot), Jae Crowder (NWT) all OUT
- Heat: Tyler Herro (back), Caleb Martin (quad) and Duncan Robinson (finger) are OUT
The Suns started off strong, getting Ayton on the right block with an empty corner. When Miami committed to the double anyway, the swing-around to the open weak side was easy and got Chris Paul a wide open three. Mikal Bridges drove into traffic for free throws on the next possession, a good sign the Suns were going to ‘hit first’ in this one. 5-0 Suns.
Then the Suns started missing open shots — a pair of open threes, a missed layup — and the Miami Heat were allowed to tie it up 7-7. Miami’s Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler were digging hard for steals on Ayton and Bridges on the catch, but couldn’t quite get there.
Torrey Craig made a couple of threes to open up the game a bit, giving the Suns are rare first-quarter lead, 15-10, but then Jimmy Butler generated five points (free throws, open three for Strus) to tie the game right up again, 15-15.
Miami is going for the ball every single time on the Ayton catch, and finally got one to help them go up 19-15 on a breakaway. But after Ayton was mauled a couple of times (no calls), he looked more tentative, which was exactly what Miami wanted.
And the refs were letting them be physical on the guy with the ball, no matter how it was (Mikal or DA), so the Suns began to get more and more frustrated.
Let’s look on the Bright Side — this is good experience for Ayton. Suns have no choice but to keep giving him chances with the ball, and he’s going to get rep after rep of trying to deal with those swiping hands.
When the bench came in, things got even a little worse and soon the team’s shooting percentage was down in the low 30s.
Suns down 30-23 after one quarter, as Victor Oladipo made a half-court, bank-shot three at the buzzer after having airballed an open normal three on the possession before that. Miami made 52% of their shots, including 55% on threes, compared to the Suns’ 39/37 splits. They outscored the Suns 20-8 to end the quarter.
Miami kept up their hot shooting and took a 36-27 lead, supported by 7-12 shooting from deep. Off the bench, Gabe Vincent and Oladipo combined for 4-5 on threes. The Suns are 3-10 at this point.
The Suns pulled back to within three, but then Duane Washington Jr. got blocked on a layup by Adebayo, who took the ball, drove the length of the court and made a driving layup on the other end. Timeout Suns. Bam is up to 10 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes.
Starters came back in for both sides and I just have to point out HOW AWFUL this Paul-Shamet-Bridges-Craig-Ayton starting lineup has been this year. Within a couple minutes, the Suns were down 42-35 as Landry Shamet missed another couple shots.
Also worth noting, the Suns have not crossed 105 points in a game in their last four games. They’re at 36 with 5 minutes left in the first half. We have to remember that Devin Booker is the Suns only 20-point scorer, and without him they are really going to struggle to score.
Defense is the only way to win at this point, which would be a nice change of pace for them after being one of the worst in the league at that for the past month.
The Suns had tied it at 44-44 but then Miami successfully mucked up the game to take a 51-46 halftime lead with Duane Washington and Landry Shamet closing out the half as the back court (last five minutes). I’ll say that again — ShamWash closed out the quarter as the Suns backcourt, in a backcourt-centric offense. They combined to shoot 4-15 (27%) from the floor in that half.
No Chris Paul to start the second half. After missing the last 5 minutes of the first half. I suppose he’s got an injury and his night is over?
Damion Lee takes Paul’s place to start the half, which begins with a pair of Kyle Lowry three point plays to push Miami’s lead to 59-48 after Lowry scores the first eight points for Miami this half. They’re really trying to run it up.
Duane Washington Jr. and Ish Wainright, the Suns two two-way contracts, came in at the 7:20 mark of the third quarter and might not leave...
No Book. No Paul. No Cams. (and no Jae of course).
This one’s getting really ugly, folks. DWJ is totally out of control in this one, trying to do way too much and having no filter on his game. Bridges appears to be physically struggling with burst (knee soreness he’s playing through) and Ayton has one of the league’s greatest defenders on him every time down (Adebayo) plus a rush of help guys any time he’s in the paint. Not to excuse Ayton, he’s just on an island in the paint.
But it looks like Miami has completely lost their edge and refuse to pull away entirely in this game. DWJ’s first make of the half (4th in 15 tries) pulled the Suns within 7 and forced a timeout by Miami’s coach.
Suns down 70-63 despite hitting only 3 of 16 threes. Something’s gotta give. Either Miami wakes up or the Suns wake up. Oh, and there’s crunch time woes if it stays super close.
Suns went almost full-bench (with Mikal) at the 2:01 mark of the third, down 74-67. Of course, they went on a run to pull within 74-73 just like we all thought would happen, before Victor Oladipo personally drove his way into a 4-0 run to end the quarter.
Suns down 78-73 after three. They’re still only shooting 41% overall, 22% on threes. Mikal Bridges is 0-6 from the field and gutting through a sore knee, but has tied his career high with 8 free throws and has 6 assists (3 off his season high).
To start the third quarter, Bam Adebayo went at Jock Landale or Ish Wainright time after time and helped push the Heat lead back up to 10 (85-75) before Ayton and Craig came back in.
Without so many players, its tough to watch these guys. The crowd showed their loudest voices when Bam missed the front end of a pair of free throws, but then he made the second. No freebies yet.
Oh, and the free throw discrepancy that had been even for a while is now 26-18 in favor of Miami. Victor Oladipo is having himself a game, shooting toward a season high.
Once again, the Suns would not go away and pulled within 7 with 6:15 to go, inducing a quick timeout by the Miami coach to remind his guys their All-Stars are playing a team with three starters missing and no point guard beyond DWJ. 89-82 Miami. 6:15 left.
After timeout, Miami put back in their starters, with Oladipo in for Highsmith, and immediately gets a 4-point play on a corner three to push the lead back to 93-82. Nice call, Miami.
Two plays later, Strus got another open three. 96-82 Miami. That’s seven points on two shots for Strus since Miami put the starters back.