Dwyane Wade was ruled out for a third time this road trip with a hurt foot and with LeBron James tweeting earlier in the day that he was sick, the Miami Heat were bracing themselves for a hard-fought game against a Phoenix Suns team they had beaten by 25 points a few weeks prior.
James was a game-time decision, and had the look of one as he struggled out the gate as he didn’t record his first basket until the second quarter. However, he picked it up in the second half and hit a crucial layup with 44 seconds left to evade yet another Suns comeback, leading the Heat to a 97-88 win behind his 21 points on 20 shots, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals in nearly 41 minutes worth of action.
LeBron was sluggish throughout, but had plenty of help from his teammates, including Chris Bosh who missed only two of his 11 field-goal attempts before ending up with 24 points to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks. His mobility and the fact that his jumper was hitting proved lethal to the Suns’ bigs, limiting original starter Marcin Gortat to 23 minutes and forcing them to go to their bench in hopes that Markieff Morris and Jermaine O’Neal would do any better.
They did better, but not enough to offset Bosh, who drew a foul and hit the two ensuing free throws that pushed a two-point lead to four with 1:28 remaining. The Heat would then watch Sebastian Telfair miss a jumper, before watching LeBron take a drive to the cup for the dagger.
As far as daggers go, the Heat had numerous opportunities to put this Suns team away. They started out the game on a 9-0 run, not allowing the Suns first points until there was 7:46 left in the first and not allowing their first field-goal until ten seconds later, but quickly saw that lead evaporate due to a season-high nine turnovers in the first frame.
Miami led by as much as 15 following a Norris Cole steal and dunk with 2:53 remaining in the third, but promptly allowed the Suns to go on an 11-0 run once James and Bosh had checked out. The Suns tied it at 79 apiece with 8:29 left in the fourth and got no closer as the Heat used a 9-0 run to create some distance.
The Suns led by as much as eight in the first half, having a 41-33 lead with 5:45 remaining in the half.
Then LeBron James woke up; scoring six of his nine first-half points in the final six minutes of the half, and creating a tone for the rest of the game. Because before then, James was basically being outplayed by Michael Beasley and that’s something a three-time MVP and the best player in the world doesn’t want on their resume. At one point, James left for the lockerroom near the end of the first quarter to get administered by the Heat’s medical staff.
LeBron ended up playing the entire second half.
The Heat had another stellar night shooting from beyond the arc, converting 8-of-19 (42 percent) from beyond the arc. It was none other than Shane Battier leading the way, once again, hitting 4-of-8 from deep only a few days after making 6-of-7 in a win against Denver. Over the past four contests, Battier has shot 15-of-24 on three-pointers, bringing up memories of his electric NBA Finals performance when he shot 55 percent from the land of three.
Battier’s 12 and Mario Chalmers’ 11 represented the only other Heat players outside of James and Bosh to record a double-figure scoring output. Ray Allen came off the bench to finish with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, and also saw his defense come into focus again as the athletic Shannon Brown had a few blow-bys and easy shots as a result of Allen’s slow-footed defense.
Nevertheless, even with Allen struggling on that side and James being sick, the Heat limited the Suns to 43 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent shooting from beyond the arc, while forcing 16 turnovers.
The Heat finish the arduous road trip 4-2 and ended it on a two-game winning streak following wins against the Nuggets and Suns. They now get a much-needed break with three days separating them from a home contest with the Milwaukee Bucks.