Jimmy Butler set the tone early and Goran Dragic played the role of closer for a feel-good bounce back 124-108 road win against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
In some ways it was the most enjoyable victory so far this season for the Heat, now at 6-2, after a frustrating 20-point loss in Denver as they showed their resilience and poise with yet another impressive team performance.
Right from the beginning it was clear that Butler was going to have a big offensive night but he showed his offensive skillset in a big way with 18 in the first quarter and 30 of his 34 points by halftime. He was responsible for practically half of the team’s offense but little by little just about every member of the Heat who played tonight had their own moments that would help fight off the pesky Suns who kept clawing back. Though their only lead was very early in the game, Phoenix would consistently erase double-digit leads that Miami would labor to build up.
Miami’s bench outscored their counterparts 52-28 led by Dragic, who was spectacular in the second half — scoring 20 of his 25 points in the final two quarters, including a long 3-point to beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter.
Bam Adebayo filled the box score up with 15 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a career-high five steals. The two rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro each scored in double-figures, combining for 26 points.
For as much as the firepower was on full display tonight for Miami, it was their defense that limited the Suns to 44% field goal shooting and 34% 3-point shooting overall and clamped down on the opposition in the final moments of the game with timely steals to ice the game. It was great seeing Herro struggling against Devin Booker early in the game only to see the confident rookie finally getting the better of him on both ends of the court late in the game.
Miami was shorthanded again tonight, with Justise Winslow placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol after the Denver game and Derrick Jones Jr. was ruled out during the game with a hip injury.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Miami next faces a tough Los Angeles Lakers team Friday night in another test for this scrappy Heat team.