It's no wonder the the Miami Heat have won 14-straight at home. Down 10 points with about seven minutes left, the Heat came out of a timeout and looked like another team. They ramped up the defensive energy and went on a 17-0 run to put the Phoenix Suns away.
The Suns shot just 28% from the field in the fourth quarter after shooting 53% through three. Miami put on as impressive a defensive performance as I've seen all season.
Overall, it was a good game and just like a few weeks ago in Oklahoma City, the Suns had a chance to steal a road win over one of the league's best. You can look at a few blown lay ups from Robin Lopez and Channing Frye, but the reality is, the Heat had too much fire power when they decided to finally go full bore.
"The moral victory thing is long gone. We have to have wins. We put ourselves in a position to win the game and we let it slip away. Obviously, you've got to give them some credit. They made some plays down the stretch, but we also had an opportunity to make plays that we just didn't complete," Alvin Gentry said after the game.
"The biggest disappointment is that we did come up with stops and they got the ball back on the offensive rebound and that just can't happen in the guts of the game."
The Suns bench definitely gets a game ball.
Shannon Brown continues to play under control and Michael Redd and Robin Lopez mostly played well. Markieff Morris (12 points, four rebounds) had some horrible plays but also dazzled with a block on a one-on-three breakaway and followed that up with a three-point play. He played hard and tough and seemed to rise to the occasion with was a positive sign.
42 points overall for the bench who all were in the positive in the all important +/- category while the starters were all in the negative. The Heat are vulnerable but the ability to crank up the defense to close games is a pretty nice safety net to have.
The starters were led by 19 points from the ageless Grant Hill. Steve Nash had nine points and 10 assists. Only Channing Frye didn't contribute. He had a team-low two points in 25 minutes. It wasn't his night.
Moral victory or gut busting defeat?
Whatever. Tomorrow is the Magic.
Bonus stat of the night: The Heat were 13-19 from the line through the first three quarters and then 13-16 in the fourth.
Well now, guess who has a four point lead over the Miami Heat on the road at the half. The same team that got down nine in a blink of an eye and then rallied back with a combination of strong defense, solid shooting and great bench play. The Phoenix Suns are balling.
Looking at the box score, the Suns are -10 on points in the paint (30-20), giving up 58% shooting, and have turned the ball over ten times leading to 16 Miami points. But where they are dominating is on the offensive glass with an 11-2 advantage in second chance points.
Who is this team?
Can they hold on to steal the win? Yes.
Will they? I have no idea.
The goal for the Phoenix Suns when they face the Miami Heat for the first and only time this season should be to keep the game close and wait for LeBron James to choke in the fourth quarter. Everyone knows that LeBron, who is having one of the best statistical seasons in the history of the NBA, is "unclutch" which is why his Miami team has "only" won 33 games while losing a massive 11.
James is averaging a ridiculous 27.4 points per game, along with 8.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists. He's shooting 54.3% from the field and 40% from three. He's a beast on defense and a terror in the open court.
As for the clutchiness of King James, he does seem to take a slight knee. With five minutes or less in games within five points, he's 16-41 from the field (39%) this season. So keep the game close and you might have a chance (as long as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have fouled out of the game).
The Heat are 3-2 over their last five games with losses coming on the road to the Bulls and Magic. They are 19-2 at home this season. They are second in the league in offensive efficiency (109 pts/100 poss) and sixth in defensive efficiency (100 pts/100 poss).
The Suns are ranked...well, let's not go there since those numbers include the first half of the season which we are all better off pretending everything before the All-Star break never happened. In March, the Suns are scoring 108 points per 100 possessions and giving up 102.7 and that's FIFTH and TENTH respectively.
That's right, the Suns have had the 5th best offense and 10th best defense in the league in the month of March. Now that's how you build a 9-2 record.
The defensive rebounding has even improved from 26th to 20th while the offensive rebounding has gone from 25th in January to seventh best in March.
WHOA!!! I had no idea!!
Ed note: At this point I broke off the preview and did a separate story on rebounding and turnovers. Read it here.
So yeah, the Suns are playing well. They are as hot as any team in the league and now they get a real test against the best. Are they up to the challenge? We'll see, but don't give up hope if they can't beat the team many expect to be this year's NBA champs. As the wise man said, be patient like old bull.
Game time is 4:30 p.m. Arizona Time (the only time that matters other than Beer Time). The game is on Fox Sports Arizona.