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Game #34: Miami Heat (17-16) vs. Phoenix Suns (23-13)

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The Heat will begin their longest road trip of the season tonight, and it could also be the start of a very fun 2nd half of the season.  Yesterday the Heat made official what had most of us very excited over the past few days, and that was re-signing PG Rafer Alston.  Now I've been wrong before, but I think this move is going to be as impactful to Miami's season as was the acquisition of Quentin Richardson

The reason for that is defense.  The point guard position has been lacking anything resembling good defense since Gary Payton was running with the Heat, but Alston could change that very quickly.  He's a quick, athletic guy who does a good job keeping players in front of him, meaning you wont see him chasing guys towards the rim the way you'd see Mr. Chalmers doing every few minutes. 

Rafer's first practice with the team will be Friday morning in Phoenix, as he was signed too late in the day on Thursday to work out with the team.  Depending on what they see in Alston, Heat coaches will have to decide if he can contribute right away.  I'm sure they can teach him enough plays to efficiently run the offense, and considering how poor the Heat have been at that position of late, I expect Coach Spo to get Rafer out there ASAP. 

His help couldn't come sooner, with the Heat beginning their 6-game 9-day trip in Phoenix.  The Suns are holding on to the 3 seed in a very tough Western Conference and are winners of 5 of their last 7 games.   Miami will certainly have their hands full against the leagues top scoring team.  The Heat have yet to win a game this season when giving up 100+ points and the Suns average 110.1 ppg.

GAME NOTES

  • This 6-game road trip will be the longest of the year for Miami. 
  • The Heat have gone 6-5 in the 11 games that Carlos Arroyo has started this season.  Before that they went 11-11 in the 22 games that Mario Chalmers started before losing his spot. 
  • Rafer Alston will wear #11.   He still holds a Heat franchise record despite just playing the one season for us in 03-04.  That year, Rafer hit a three-pointer in 48 consecutive games.  Now the Heat could really use another outside threat, and this year Alston is averaging 1.5 triples a game while playing around 28 minutes.
  • After winning 5 out of 6, the Heat have since lost 4 of their last 5.
  • Wednesday against Boston the Heat forced a season-high 25 turnovers. 
  • Speaking of season-high's, D-Wade dropped 44 on the Celtics and is averaging 33.6 ppg over his last 3 games.

I'll leave you some quotes regarding the signing of Rafer Alston.  Tipoff from the US Airways Center is set for 9pm, as the Heat will look to make a dent in the Suns 14-3 record at home. 

Erik Spoelstra

On why they signed Rafer: 

"We brought him here for a reason. He's a high-motor, high-energy guy. He knows how to get the ball to other guys, make other guys better."

On the PG rotation:

"It will work itself out, exactly as who's going to start, who's going to come off the bench.  It's not going to be easy. One of them won't be in the rotation."

On Rafer's defense:

"He was a very good defender when we had him.  He was one of our very best defenders at his position, as far as keeping the ball in front of him. So he's going to help bolster that position."

Pat Riley

"He brings another set of skills and experience to the point guard position.  From his time in Miami, we know both his game and him as a person, and we had a great experience with him in the past."

Dwyane Wade

"Veteran guys are so important in this league.  They've done it for so long and Skip became a leader. He's a general on the floor, really helps to lead his team."