The starters struggled but the bench, along with Deandre Ayton, was excellent
The Miami Heat got off to a hot start, but the Phoenix Suns pulled even and then ran away with it thanks to big contributions from the backups to win 106-86.
Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne, Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter had 65 huge points, shooting about 67% from the field.
Among the Suns starters, Deandre Ayton had an excellent game with 19 points, 13 rebounds and (I really think more than) 1 block and a couple of steals.
We got early-season Suns tonight, with the starting unit struggling to maintain while the bench comes in to blow out the opposition no matter who they threw at them. The Cams, Dario, Jevon and Torrey all played great on a night that Devin Booker would probably like to flush, as would Chris Paul.
Great teams can win with their stars playing but playing poorly. And the Suns have proven all year they can win in different ways. They can win with offense one night, defense the next. Starters one night, bench the next.
On this night, the defense and bench were tremendous.
Miami decided to muck up the game with the game with their excellent defense, putting length on the Suns back court where ever they could. Deandre Ayton and Dario Saric got some easy looks as a result, but not enough to keep up the Suns torrid scoring pace of the past few weeks.
But the Suns responded well, and played their own brand of knock-you-around defense. The bench plays well in this reality, and tonight was no different. When the Heat got mucky, the Suns bench shone bright.
How it happened
The game started off a bit sloppy, with turnovers by both sides. Eventually that settled down, but the Suns just couldn’t get the ball in the basket as often as the Heat.
After half a quarter, the Suns were down 22-11 by shooting just 38% from the floor while the Heat were shooting 67% (including three for four on threes). Deandre Ayton was the only Sun playing well, with 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block to that point.
Miami was focused, would not back down. Jumping every passing lane, anticipating where the Suns wanted to go with the ball. They had just played two weeks ago, so the Suns were fresh in their minds (Suns won 110-100, but it was a bigger lead than that before garbage time).
By the end of the first quarter, Miami had made 5 of 10 threes, shot 57% and still had a 34-26 lead. The Suns uncharacteristically had 6 turnovers (5 on Miami steals), a sign that they just weren’t focused on their offense. Miami, to their credit (6th ranked D after all), played a lot of length on the Suns guards to disrupt their passing vision.
It took all of 4 minutes into the second quarter for the Suns to right the ship and tie the game at 42-42 on a Chris Paul three. Then a minute later Jevon Carter made his second three to give the Suns a 45-42 lead. And this was without Booker, Ayton and Bridges.
The Suns maintained a tie or lead the rest of the quarter, despite Miami trying to play more and more physical. The Suns met the challenge and kept their cool, giving as much as they got.
Suns up 56-50 at the half.
- Ayton with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block
- Bench boys: Cameron Johnson with 10/3, Dario Saric 7/5/2, Cam Payne 7/2/2 and Jevon Carter 5/1
This half started a bit similar to the first, with Ayton playing well under the basket but the rest of the guys a little slow/off on their shots. Booker was 0-4 on threes in the first 2.5 minutes of the half. That’s not good.
But then Booker got a steal and and-one finish (a bit roundabout, but yeah let’s call it that), which helped the Suns keep the lead. He quickly picked up his fourth foul, though, and had to come out soon after. Booker was now out of the game with 10 points, 5 turnovers and 4 personal fouls. Suns up 65-57.
The game became a slog at that point, with both teams playing scrappy defense. Almost no one got open shots except one for Miami and one for Phoenix that were threes.
Several minutes later, the score had only advanced to 74-67 Suns on a pair of Dario free throws as the Suns bench came in to hold the line built by the starters. Dario Saric was back to Super Dario in this one, a. much needed turn of events. And the Cams were great, as were Jevon and Torrey. Can you tell I love these guys?
Torrey Craig and Cameron Payne both made driving layups right through the Heat defense in the final minute of the quarter, and the Suns were up 83-72 going into the 4th.
The bench continued to dominate in the fourth, putting the Suns up 93-78 before any starters returned. What a performance!
The starters stayed a bit to hold the line. Then when the Suns went up 101-83, both teams called off the hounds and put back in their bench guys. Whoops, Miami. You sure about that? This time, the Suns bench included rookies Jalen Smith and Ty-Shon Alexander at least.
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