Suns 96 - HEAT 123 Recap

Photo Credit: Victor Baldizon

MIAMI, November 17 – Everything was going well for the Miami HEAT Wednesday night. Shots were falling, the ball was moving, lanes were opening and the defense stuck to its principles and continued to close out and rotate on the Phoenix Suns even as Miami took a 20-point lead. It was, for all regular-season intents and purposes, a perfect game for Miami against a team that had just beaten the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets on back-to-back nights.

“I think they played great, probably their most complete game of the year, if you ask me,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.

But this was all about Chris Bosh, for all the best reasons.

Bosh – 35 points, six rebounds, four assists on 11-for-11 free-throw shooting – took advantage of a small Phoenix front line, with Hedo Turkoglu matching up with him, in scoring Miami’s first eight points. By halftime, when Miami had a 21-point lead, Bosh had already topped his season-high, also of 21, with 22 points.

And the points came in a variety of different ways. He cut to the rim off the ball for layups, he took defenders off the dribble, he pick-and-popped his way into open jumpers and went right at anyone leaning in just too much to get to the line.

“He was due,” LeBron James said. “He was well overdue for one of these games. I could see it in his eyes to start the game.”

The aggressiveness, and effectiveness, forced Phoenix to continue double teaming Bosh below the free-throw line, which opened up the perimeter for Miami’s shooters (7-of-19 from three) and created wide driving lanes for James and Dwyane Wade (37 combined points on 15-of-26 shooting).

Sometimes, though, when a player has everything going in an advantageous matchup, an offense will start throwing that player the ball and watching. This can work, but it can also turn into bad habits and an attack that requires fixing through practice.

The HEAT did not do this. Of Bosh’s 12 field goals, eleven were assisted, with a good percentage of those coming from James. Everything came within the natural flow of an offense that had 29 assists on 47 buckets.

“We kept playing, kept pressing on, and we found our shots and we knocked them down,” Bosh said. “Luckily today that rim was looking good for us, but that’s because we moved the ball and found each other.”

Defense was the focus for the HEAT, however, in the days leading up to Wednesday night. Coach Erik Spoelstra had described them, particularly Tuesday’s two-hour session, as training-camp style practices with a heavy focus on defense.

“What I told the guys after the game was they made each other better the last two days, really pushing each other,” Spoelstra said. “There was a really serious tone and edge, going at a pace very similar to what you saw here. It carried over without question.”

It carried over to the effect of Phoenix scoring less than a point for every possession and turning the ball over 17.5 percent of the time. And it helped stave off a third-quarter Suns run, when Phoenix closed the lead to 12 with 3:14 to play. By the end of the period, Miami was back up 27 with a 19-3 run. Unlike the loss to the Utah Jazz, the HEAT slammed the door on any run.

“That was the talk going out of the locker room at halftime,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody was talking about that, exorcising the demons from the Utah game.”

Wednesday night, the HEAT did just that, and about everything else they could.