Nothing is easy when your top scorer is out. Points become harder to find, offensive sets don’t look the same, and spacing changes. Don’t tell that to the Phoenix Suns, as even without Kevin Durant, the team scored 113 in a win over the Miami Heat.
Because Grayson Allen decided to assume the KD role from a scoring standpoint. Allen set a career-high in three-pointers made with nine, shooting 9-of-14 from beyond the arc and scoring a team-high 31 points.
Not surprisingly, Bam Adebayo was a handful. He scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Athletic centers generally give Jusuf Nurkic fits, and Bam is elite athletic. And he’ll flex on you. Thankfully, Bradley Beal will flex right back at you.
Beal, who went for 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting, had 9 assists and 8 rebounds. Devin Booker? A cool 20 points and 10 assists. Phoenix shot 50.6% from the field, including 40% from three, while holding the Heat to 27% from deep and 41% overall.
The win pushes the Suns to 19-16 on the year and back over .500 at home, where they are now 11-10. Miami leaves town with a 20-15 record.
The news came out before the game that the Suns would be without Kevin Durant. Again. Added to the list of players unavailable included Nassir Little and Eric Gordon.
Everything you want is on the other side of goddamn it https://t.co/K1uxeWwx6p— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 6, 2024
Not only would their starting five again be compromised, but the overall depth would also be as well. Of course, the Heat would be without their primary scorer as well as Jimmy Butler was out with a foot injury.
The game began with the fundamental Heat executing in the manner they typically do: ball movement, cutting, and finding players in space. For the Suns, it was the three-ball that played in their favor. Grayson Allen deposited his first two three-pointers, and Devin Booker followed it up with one of his own.
Jaime Jaquez, Jr., the rookie from UCLA, showcased why he was the November Rookie of the Month early on. His size, coupled with his basketball IQ, put him in space in which the matchup favored him.
Frank Vogel pulled a lever we haven’t seen in a while: he inserted Drew Eubanks into the game. The last substantial minutes he played were on Christmas Day against the Mavericks. He did so with Bol Bol on the floor, which is a completely new wrinkle.
Old man Kevin Love was the thorn in the Suns’ side in the first, as he was who the Suns felt they did not need to cover. His response? 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting, adding 2 rebounds and an assist. The Suns overpursued the young talent and Love burned them for it.
Kevin Love throwback game vs the Suns right now. pic.twitter.com/9PuMdSkjNF— Suns Geek (@sunsgeek) January 6, 2024
Booker had a solid opening quarter, scoring 10 points, while Bradley Beal added his 5 points in the final minute. Grayson Allen led all Suns’ scorers with 12 in the quarter.
After one, Suns up 33-29.
The second quarter opened with Yuta Watanabe in the lineup, another oddity of late. Yuta has had issues with confidence, both in his shot and defensive execution. He would miss his first corner three-pointer. He would score 2 points.
Miami began attacking the interior, using Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo to do so, getting to the line, and stressing the Suns foul situation. Bam, who had 2 points in the first, would score 17 in the second quarter, doing so in Bam ways. He is athletic and quick and with the lumbering interior defense of Nurkic or the sub-par athleticism of Eubanks or Keita Bates-Diop, Adebayo was getting shots that he wanted.
Grayson Allen continued his hot shooting into the second as he continued launching long-range three-pointers. And connecting.
Allen had 23 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting, including 7-of-10 from three-point range.
The whistles were being blown on some questionable calls, and seeing as the Suns were in foul trouble, they resulted in free throws for the Heat. Miami would go 11-of12 from the line. Phoenix? 0-of-0.
The Suns still outscored the Heat 29-26 in the quarter and took a 62-55 lead into the half.
Phoenix began on 15-8 run as their defense tightened up, leading to offensive success. Allen continued his heater into the second half, scoring 5 in the third quarter. He wasn’t alone, as Bradley Beal and Devin Booker were finding their shots falling as well.
Allen’s efficiency was creating defensive problems and decisions for the Heat and the Suns were making them pay.
This is the "help off Beal if you want" dynamic I wrote about yesterday— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) January 6, 2024
Herro not only does so, but is late at the nail, creating a 2-way closeout for himself — that help that teams have grown comfortable conceding to stop Booker in PnR has consequences when Beals spaced right pic.twitter.com/ZnLL8vFey3
Midway through the third, the Suns were up 18 points.
Bol Bol got the crowd in a tizzy and a layup-and-1, and the chants rang throughout the arena while he was at the free throw. The Bol Bol Experience. It’s something else. He did exit shortly thereafter and was tended to on the sideline, as it appeared he twisted his ankle on the play.
The playmaking cannot be understated when Beal and Booker are on the floor. Their gravity opens lanes for each other and their teammates. Through three quarters, the duo combined for 17 assists.
Phoenix got it done on both ends of the floor, holding the Heat to 20 points in the third while scoring 31. After three, Suns up 94-75.
Beal led the charge in the fourth as Devin Booker sat. His physicality on the board was welcomed as Nurk did all he could to neutralize Bam. In turn, Beal was on his way to his best rebounding performance of the season.
Bradley Beal Triple-Double Watch: 23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists with 8:23 left in the game...— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 6, 2024
Both teams were in the penalty with 6:40 left in the game and the Suns up 17 points.
It was a physical game. Jusuf Nurkic took a shot to the eye (no call on the play, of course) and had to go to the locker room. Bradley Beal hit the floor on another no-call and limped back to the Suns huddle after a timeout. Beal did return to the game following the timeout.
It was a rough shooting game for Keits Bates-Diop. He went 0-of-6 from the field.
Grayson Allen crossed the 30-point threshold with his ninth-made three-pointer off a Beal assist. This ties the Suns' record for most made three-pointers in a game and set a career-best.
Following a Drew Eubanks three, the game was one ice. Suns win 113-97.
Ja Morant is coming to town. See you Sunday!