Miami shocks the Suns in a lopsided victory 123-100
The short-handed Miami Heat went into Phoenix tonight, for an extremely tough matchup. Miami is missing two of their best players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, along with Gabe Vincent and Dewayne Dedmon. Victor Oladipo (quads), KZ Okpala (wrist), and Markieff Morris are also out for Miami. Morris has been out since Nikola Jokic elbowed him in the back, nearly a month ago during their fight. As for Phoenix, DeAndre Ayton, JaVale McGee, and Jae Crowder, all returned after their absences, giving them much more hope. The Suns head into the game with the best record in the NBA (first in West), while Miami finds themselves in fourth place in the East (less than two games ahead of Philadelphia). All the cards were in Phoenix’s favor heading into this game, especially considering Phoenix was at home too.
In the first half, the Miami Heat utilized a small ball lineup, with P.J. Tucker and Omer Yurtseven, making up their frontcourt. Monty Williams went with his full strength lineup, which includes CP3, Devin Booker, Miles Bridges, Jae Crowder, and DeAndre Ayton. Despite not matching up well on paper, Miami held its ground. Behind the vision of floor general Kyle Lowry and big-man Omer Yurtseven, Miami was able to move the ball around at a fluid pace, as well as knocking down the open shot. Lowry and Yurtseven combined for six assists in the first quarter, with a combined 21 on the night. When teams move the ball as well as that, usually it translates to them finding more open shots than their opponent, and that’s exactly what happened in the first quarter. Eric Spoelstra’s squad shot nearly 10% better in the first quarter and 12% by the end of the game. By the end of the first quarter, Phoenix began to get a groove back, coming within 10 points, after a vicious lob finished by Bridges, from Cam Johnson. Devin Booker also did his best to keep Phoenix in the game, with his team-high 17, but Miami was too much in the first half. Their small ball lineup outrebounded Phoenix by 10, which created a multitude of second chance points. On top of that, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro poured in heroic performances off the bench. In only the first half, they both combined for 35 points, and had 8 total threes. Everything seemed to go Miami’s way, as they outrebounded Phoenix (by ten boards), shot better (50% from 3) and played much more intense defense. Miami maintained their lead throughout the second half, essentially giving Phoenix no chance to come back. Max Strus, Miami’s shooting guard, had a cool 14 points, while Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson added another barrage of buckets. They combined for 60 points by the end of the game, which is wild considering they both came off the bench. The fact that they have Yurtseven dominating the way he is as well, is a testament to the Heat’s player development. He’s the first rookie to get 15 boards in four straight games since Shaq. Miami beat Phoenix in literally every major stat category, making a compelling statement to other teams in the East. While nothing on the stat sheet shines any bright spots on Phoenix, there definitely were a few. First of all, this isn’t necessarily a “bad loss” for them. The game script may be in their favor, but this lineup hasn’t played with each other in a while. While they are starting caliber players versus mostly bench players, it was clear their chemistry wasn’t where it needed to be. This will mend in time, and shouldn’t impact their positioning in the West. Also, players like Mikal Bridges, who dropped 20 (on 8-11 shooting), DeAndre Ayton (who had a very nice second half), and Cam Johnson all looked solid. Cam showed confidence, as well as a bit of leadership tonight. That, combined with the green light Monty recently gave him should make Phoenix fans ecstatic. Mikal was by far their most efficient player on offense, shooting 72% on 11 shots. Cam has had 20 straight games with a three, Ayton looked good on his return, and Jae Crowder also provided an intangible energy tonight that doesn’t always translate on the stat sheet. Phoenix missed a huge presence in the paint tonight, as well as their poor defense. Bismack Biyombo, who players love to have on the court due to his screen-setting abilities and defense, was a DNP- Coach’s Decision tonight. They were out-rebounded by 15 total boards to a small ball lineup, so one would think Jalen Smith, or another big like him would get more minutes. However, Smith had an inconsistent 13 minutes, going 0-4 with four boards. Rebounding and shooting are two of the most key factors in winning a game and Miami dominated both tonight. An uptick in Jalen Smith minutes, or Biyombo and McGee, could’ve at least helped bridge that gap in rebounding, or defense. Miami’s 123 points was the most points any team has scored against Phoenix tonight. Jalen Smith has proven he is capable based on his past few performances, so it’s surprising no big was rotated in more. Phoenix's defense was a problem tonight. Other areas of improvement for Phoenix include knocking down their shots, and being able to get off to a quicker start. A lot of these may stem from Phoenix simply overlooking Miami, like Brooklyn recently did to LAC, so if anything this game is more of a wake up call for Phoenix. For Miami, it’s certainly a statement about not only their depth but their defensive abilities as well. They looked like a four-headed monster tonight, behind Robinson, Lowry, Herro, and Turtseven.