MIAMI (ESPN.com news services) -- The Phoenix Suns stumbled out of the gate at 1-5, but they've sure hit their stride.
The high-powered Suns attempt to finish a five-game road trip with their 12th consecutive victory Wednesday when they face the defending champion Miami Heat (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). On paper, they look to have a big advantage since reigning Finals MVP Dwyane Wade is out after having two wisdom teeth pulled. He is averaging 28.0 points, which ranks him among the league's best.
"It's going to be an unbelievable challenge whether we have Dwyane or not," Heat forward Udonis Haslem told reporters. "It's not going to be any easier without Dwyane."
The challenge for the Heat, with or without their star, will be to slow down the Suns.
The game features two coaches who have done their part to revolutionize the game. The Heat's Pat Riley is credited with developing the slow-down, defense-first style that dominated the NBA for much of the 1990s. Although this Miami team picks up the pace much more than his old New York Knicks teams, the Heat are walking in newly poured concrete compared to the Suns.
Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni favors a shoot-first, ask-questions-later style of play. Sparked by two-time MVP Steve Nash the Suns try to outgun the opposition. It seems to be working, and while Riley's style was picked up by other teams around the league in the past 15 years, D'Antoni's style is turning heads these days. Offense around the league is up, but nobody can keep up with the Suns.
Averaging a league-leading 111.8 points this season, Phoenix has shot 63 percent (149-of-235) in the first quarter during its current streak. The Suns top the NBA in shooting percentage (49.4) and are second in three-point percentage (39.4).
"First of all, you have to have Mike's mind," Riley told the Sun-Sentinel. "I mean, Mike's got a mind unlike any other mind. People say, 'Well, let's go out and do it.' But you have to know how to do it. And you've got to know all the nuances to make it really effective, and there isn't a coach in the league that has that. He's brought a system into the NBA unlike any one I've ever seen. And he has it down to a science."
Phoenix can sweep a five-game trip for the first time since April 6-13, 1998, with a win over the Heat as well as set the second-longest winning stretch in franchise history. The Suns won 14 straight from Dec. 1-30, 1992.
Amare Stoudemire scored 30 points, Shawn Marion added 19 with 11 rebounds and Nash had 18 points and 15
assists for the Suns in Monday's 103-98 triumph over the Orlando Magic.
Despite making progress after losing eight of its first 12 contests, Miami is still without Shaquille O'Neal, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since Nov. 12.
Wade scored 37 points to lead the team for a franchise-record 17th consecutive game in Monday's 99-77 triumph over the Toronto Raptors. The Heat play again Friday, but his more likely return is Saturday.
"We actually thought he could get to the end of the season with it, but it's been constant. He's been in pain, can't sleep," Riley said, according to the Miami Herald. "We numbed it up during [Monday's] game, but he had a pretty bad abscess on the bone and we didn't want it to get any worse."
Miami has won four of the past five home meetings against Phoenix and swept the Suns in both encounters last season. But this is a confident Phoenix team.
"The way we're playing right now, I like our chances in any game," D'Antoni said, according to the East Valley Tribune. "We'll get beat, teams have great games, there's fatigue, it happens. But trying to find a game that is out of our reach? Right now, I don't know if I see it."
Information from SportsTicker was used in this report.