Suns-Heat Preview: 11/17/2010
Scrutiny may have been expected, but the Miami Heat's recent inconsistency may have only heightened the intensity. Beating the surging Phoenix Suns may alleviate some of the criticisms and rumors.
The Heat attempt to build on just their second win in five games as they host the Suns on Wednesday night.
Miami (6-4) understood it would be under an intense spotlight after adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to a roster already boasting Dwyane Wade during the offseason.
The scrutiny has increased with the Heat's first slump, which has exposed flaws on what many expected to be the NBA's dominant team. Not living up to those lofty expectations early has made coach Erik Spoelstra a target of reports and speculation that he'd be removed for team president Pat Riley.
"We're 6-4 because we haven't executed the game plan," said Wade, who leads the team at 24.7 points per game. "Not because of our coaching staff. They have done an unbelievable job. The perception out there is perception. And that's all it is."
Spoelstra feels the negative chatter is only unifying his team.
"All of us understand how this team is being perceived," he said. "I'd be totally naive if I didn't know what was going on out there. I think it's been good for our group. I don't sense that it's been a distraction at all. I really think it has brought us closer. We've had a tighter focus and commitment. At times in the locker room, I hear guys kind of joke around about all the swirl that's around."
The Heat may have begun lessening the criticism by beating Toronto 109-100 on Saturday. However, their defensive play has become a concern after allowing an average of 109.3 points while losing two of three.
"We just have to keep on continuing to grind games defensively and build those habits," Spoelstra said.
Another strong effort from Wade would help. The guard scored 31 points with eight rebounds against the Raptors after making 2 of 12 shots for a season-low eight points in a 112-107 loss to Boston on Thursday.
James, who had 23 points and 11 assists Saturday, is developing strong chemistry with his new club, averaging 22.3 points with a team-high 8.9 assists.
Bosh isn't having the same success with 14.5 points per game and 6.0 rebounds after posting career highs of 24.0 and 10.8, respectively, with Toronto last season. He had 12 points and six boards in his first game against his former team Saturday.
The forward-center could be in for a big performance against the Suns (6-4), against whom he's averaged 27.2 points and 12.4 boards in the last five meetings.
Wade is scoring 33.0 points per game in his last five matchups with Phoenix. He totaled 56 points and 15 assists as the visiting team won each of the two meetings last season.
The Suns, who have won four of five in Miami, have won five of six after a slow start.
Phoenix continued to roll Monday, as six players scored in double-digits in a 100-94 win over Denver.
"I think guys are starting to get comfortable playing with each other and it's shown in the last couple of games we've played," said guard Jason Richardson, who had 11 points and six rebounds against the Nuggets.
Steve Nash has been key during over the last six games, averaging 19.8 points and 12.0 assists. The All-Star guard has been outstanding in the last three visits to Miami, making 70.8 percent of his shots to average 29.7 points.
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited