Already without leading scorer Devin Booker, the Suns — who have only won four times in 26 games — somehow rattled off 36 points in the first quarter, a bad omen for a Heat team that consistently plays down to the competition. But eventually Miami restored order on the defensive side and that’s precisely when Bam Adebayo, starting in the absence of Hassan Whiteside (who is expecting the birth of his child), largely took over the game with a dazzling array of all-out hustle plays and a rapidly blossoming offensive repertoire to the tune of 20 first half points in a career-high 22-point (6-9 FG shooting, 10-11 FT shooting), 10-rebound performance. His chemistry with Goran Dragic (who notched his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 assists), who was returning after an extended absence on familiar territory in Phoenix, was exquisite and the Heat benefited greatly from the return of their All-Star point guard.
Equally impressive was Justise Winslow who enjoyed his best game of the season, and one of the best of his young NBA career, with 20 points on an ultra-efficient 7-8 FG shooting; his only miss during a hustle play with an offensive tip attempt late in the game. His eight rebounds and six assists only hint at what a fine all-around game he displayed and gives hope that fans will enjoy more games like this in the future.
Meanwhile, the young Suns couldn’t help themselves fumbling over each other with unforced errors and messy plays, while veterans Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford (who deserve better) look on. A highlight-worthy 3-pointer ending the first half to cut the Heat’s lead to 10 points courtesy of Mikal Bridges was nice, and De-Anthony Melton came out of nowhere to score in bunches in the third quarter to do whatever he could to keep it from getting the deficit completely out of hand. But there was little else to change the ultimate outcome with the Heat executing so crisply.
Whenever the Suns would go on a mini-run, the Heat would respond immediately and different players such as Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder would take turns making the right plays to get their sizable lead back. Of note, Josh Richardson had a relatively quiet game with eight points, five assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers in 38 minutes.
A feel-good victory to be sure, but by default there can only be better teams left to face on this road trip and the Heat will face tough tests beginning tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday at 10:30pm.