Game Notes: Heat at Suns
The nightmare before Christmas never materialized for the Heat.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
Yes, Christmas was two days hence when the Miami Heat toured the facility and picked up slack in Phoenix Wednesday night, but the game resembled Halloween instead. The Heat came up missing a limb (Dwyane Wade) while the Suns attempted to quickly stitch two new ones on (Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus) for missing limbs (Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu) and still dropped one in the process (Vince Carter).
The two Frankenstein’s monsters flailed at each other in response to the changes, mounting 35 turnovers and long stretches of staring into the camera menacingly without much action. In the battle of those tampering in God’s domain, the Heat came away with a 95-83 win only a mad scientist could love.
Neither team appeared terribly comfortable offensively. Miami’s phantom pains came in the form of significant dribbling from LeBron James and far too much of people not named LeBron James shooting.
Despite the absence of Wade due to soreness in his left knee, James spent too many possessions standing in the corner and not touching the ball. (“Too many,” in this instance, would be more than zero.)
But the Suns had yet to work out the team defense necessary to slow down James when he had the ball (36 points on 22 shots) nor had they sorted out what to do if the opposing team doubled their ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, leading to a tepid 40 percent from the floor.
Chris Bosh, who usually slobbers over the chance to play the Tootsie Pop Suns, mustered 23 points and 11 rebounds. Gortat joined a healthy Robin Lopez to muscle Bosh out of position, leaving him to settle for catch-and-shoot jumpers which he promptly hit.
The stitches came loose on Gortat early. While his huge hands and fine positioning will eventually fill the Suns’ wish list for a post threat, he found himself out of place often on his first night on the job. Pietrus found his spot on the floor more easily but couldn’t hit the shots granted him, finishing 1-6 from the floor and none of his four three-pointers.
The Heat weren’t exactly seamless, either. Without Wade, the mismatched collection of NBAish talent on the floor for the Heat when James took the bench could only be explained by Pat Riley trademarking “ragtag band.” Outside of Bosh and James, the Heat players mostly voted present on all matters in the agenda.
The Suns, on the other hand, missed the impact of a volume shooter. Steve Nash rolled up 18 assists (and 5 turnovers) but only shot four times. Holding Carter’s putative place in the starting lineup, Jared Dudley rolled up a career-high 33 points on 11-16 shooting (7-10 from the arc) with 12 rebounds from all over the floor. No other Sun could muster more than 14 points (Channing Frye) or double-digit rebounds.
Postgame, the reporters queued around Jared Dudley made Steve Nash stand up and notice as he entered his locker space. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he proclaimed, “Jared Dudley!” Dudley demurred unusually, tamping down speculation about keeping the starting role or becoming more of a scorer a la Carter. Vince Carter’s sole appearance of the evening came in a Christmas carol taped bit that arose a clatter of cheers from the home crowd, apparently unaware that he won’t be with them next Christmas.
In the end, the unprepared team met the undermanned team and lost because of LeBron James. No surprises but no shame, either. The Suns made the changes they felt possible and necessary as soon as they could, but they still may not have enough time to make up the distance in the competitive West when they pick up again against the Los Angeles Clippers on Boxing Day.
The Heat, on the other hand, finally get to play the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day and free themselves from the dual burden of expectations and anticipation for one day. That’s what you get the boy that has everything: relief.
- Yes, LeBron mentioned contraction pregame. Yes, he named the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Jersey Nets. No, he doesn’t have to work harder at making enemies but tries anyway. For what it’s worth, he also thought it was a shame for Terrelle Pryor to be suspended. But he didn’t recommend contracting the Legends division of the Big Ten. Yet. There’s still time, LeBron. Reconsider.
Not noted in other articles: He named the Portland Trail Blazers of the early ‘90s first (in unranked order) on his list of great teams and rattled off more names of those Blazers than any other great team he listed as proof of his point. You expect to hear affection for the Bad Boy Pistons, Jordan’s Bulls, the Celtics of Bird, etc. on any list, but he seemed to hold those Clyde Drexler Blazers in similar regard.
- Phoenix Mercury head coach Corey Gaines has had better nights. Not only did he watch the Suns (whom he assists) take a night-long drubbing, he had to hear that his star player, Diana Taurasi, tested positive for a mild stimulant in the Turkish Basketball League. Needless to say, he probably should consider sending a new letter to Santa overnight.