LeBron, Heat bring a chill to Phoenix
FEB 12, 2014 12:56a ET
PHOENIX -- What now is regarded as an irresistible force was not enough to overcome an immovable objection.
James hit Phoenix for 37 points in the two-time defending champion Miami Heat's 103-97 victory that included some atypical performances from the home team.
"A team like that," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of the Heat, "they have won championships, they make plays at the end of games, they've done it for at least two years now, so you have to be sharp, you have to understand that they will be anticipating certain things and you have to be able to make those plays."
For a Phoenix team that this season built a reputation for slaying NBA giants, it did not muster enough force to beat the Heat.
The most irresistible of the NBA-perplexing Suns, point guard Goran Dragic, saw his run of sensational play interrupted by a 15-point night during which he missed 8 of 12 shots from the floor. That Dragic managed to squeeze off a mere dozen shots reminds us how quick and irritating Miami's defenders can be.
"They were throwing different bodies at him in kind of a trapping way," Suns forward Channing Frye said, "so it was leaving it up to us to make the right decisions and we did, I would say 90 percent of the time.
"When we didn't, you saw what happened."
Right, even though the Suns managed to make 46 percent of their shots from the field, the Heat forced several live-ball turnovers. James, who scored 25 points in the second half, had three intercept-and-dunk plays among Miami's 24 points via 16 Phoenix turnovers.
Miami, competing without migraine-plagued superstar Dwyane Wade, began in a 0-12 hole. (It should be noted the Heat also managed to win in Phoenix while playing without former Suns forward Michael Beasley, who was out with a nasty case of coach's decision.)
While we're lobbing these short-handed-lineup dilemmas, the Suns and their fans remind us that Eric Bledsoe remains out of action.
When asked for an update on Bledsoe's possible return, Hornacek indicated the team is hoping for some time this season.
"I know they're stepping up the rehab work," Hornacek said, adding that the franchise leaders want their other point guard to be a Sun for a long time and will take a cautious approach before determining if Bledsoe is seaworthy. "They want to make sure they don't rush him back for the sake of a playoff run."
For the sake of what if, it would have be fun to see how much Bledsoe -- who also missed the Suns' game in Miami earlier this season -- would impact a game that co-starred James and Wade.
Without Wade and Bledsoe, the Heat had more than enough spare power to prevail. It figures.
The five Phoenix players that started Tuesday's game have a combined yearly salary of about $19.4 million.
James and teammate Chris Bosh (he kicked in 21 points and eight rebounds), each make slightly less than that.
Anyway, the plucky Suns don't exactly fear any of the teams they play. We're all quite aware that after thumping the Indiana Pacers here, they had the nerve to do the same thing a few nights later in Indianapolis.
But, based on recent results, a few specific anomalies were created by the Heat and pounced on by their superstar leader.
After scoring 8 points in the opening quarter, Dragic had seven in the final three quarters. He had zip in the third; teammate Gerald Green took up the slack in that period, scoring 12 of his team-high 26 points.
This ends at 10 the Suns' streak of winning when Green scores at least 20 points.
The Morris twins combined to miss 12 of 17 shots from the field. Markieff was 5 of 12 for 12 points, but had as many turnovers (three) as rebounds. His errant pass with 1:16 left in the fourth was picked off and eventually dunked by James, giving the Heat a 96-89 cushion.
Much like Markieff in last Saturday's scoreless effort during a victory over Golden State, Marcus didn't seem terrifically engaged vs. Miami.
After a 0-for-3 opening half, Marcus didn't see the floor over the last two periods.
Without a card-carrying center in its starting lineup, Miami often is vulnerable against teams with some low-post clout. The Suns often attempt to work center Miles Plumlee into the offensive flow early in games, but two quick fouls prevented him from becoming a factor.
Limited by matchups to 14:08 minutes, Plumlee provided the Suns with two points and six rebounds.
While competing for a coveted ticket to the Western Conference playoffs, the Suns enter the All-Star vacation having lost three of their last four games.
"These guys are going to go on break," Hornacek said, "get a little rest, maybe have some fun, but our training staff gave them some workout things to do to make sure they're doing some things during these five days. And we told them you have to come back and get right to it, the schedule does not get any easier the rest of the way."