8:00 PM ET, January 26, 2006
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Bell and Jones -- a pair of South Florida natives -- combined for 42 points, Steve Nash had 21 points and 14 assists, and Phoenix blew most of a 21-point second-half lead before beating Miami 107-98 on Thursday night.
"You always want to do your best at home," said Bell, who had 22 points and a critical four-point play late in the third quarter to aid a 14-2 run by the Suns. "When I came out for warmups, I got a chill."
That was the closest anybody on Phoenix's roster came to being cold.
The Suns were only 24-of-58 from 2-point range, but hit 13 of 24 tries from 3-point range and connected on 20 of 21 free-throw attempts -- helping them sweep the two-game season series with Miami.
"We don't have an answer for that team and right now, we don't have a defensive game for it," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I think you have to play against them probably four, five, six times to realize exactly what it is that you need to do to try to stop them."
Phoenix led by 21 early in the third and saw that margin whittled to five with 4:15 left after Dwyane Wade hit a pair of free throws to get Miami within 98-93. But Nash hit a 3-pointer on Phoenix's next possession, then added a three-point play about a minute later to ensure the Suns would snap a two-game losing streak.
Wade had 25 points for Miami, which fell to 0-6 against the teams with the NBA's four best records: Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas and Detroit. James Posey and Udonis Haslem each had 16 for the Heat, and Shaquille O'Neal added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"We've got to realize that teams, when they come in here, they're going to be playing way above their heads and we've got to step up and match their effort and match their energy," O'Neal said. "We can't shoot ourselves in the foot all the ... time. We're not going to have any ... toes left."
Every time Miami tried to make a run, Phoenix had an answer. The Suns closed the first half with a 21-8 spurt, fueled by 11 points from Jones that helped give his team a 66-47 lead at intermission -- drawing boos from another sellout crowd in Miami, which eclipsed the 11 million mark in all-time home attendance.
In the third, Posey was 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first 9 minutes and pulled Miami within 76-70, but Nash connected on a 3-pointer with 2:52 left to spark a 14-2 quarter-ending run and push the Suns' margin back to 90-72.
And after Miami answered by opening the fourth with a 14-2 run of its own -- getting within 92-86 on Wade's dunk with 7:22 remaining -- the Suns turned to Nash, and the reigning MVP delivered. He had eight points in the fourth, including a high-arching shot over O'Neal while getting fouled with 2:45 left.
"We knew they were going to make a run," said Shawn Marion, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix. "They're at home. Their fans started booing them, so they had no choice."
Antoine Walker had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Miami, which was without starting point guard Jason Williams, who cut his right ring finger while weightlifting on Wednesday and needed six stitches to close the wound.
The Suns started quickly -- not quite to the level of when they beat Miami earlier this month, but certainly enough to build a nice early cushion.
Phoenix shot 72 percent and scored 47 first-quarter points on the way to a 111-93 rout on Jan. 6; on Thursday, the Suns shot 62 percent and led 30-20 after the opening period. It was tied at 12 when O'Neal picked up his second foul 5:12 into the game, but he went to the bench and the Suns went on an 18-8 run.
They kept the lead the rest of the way.
"The focus was just better. You could feel it," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It was a big game. It is the middle of the year and our guys have to realize every game is important for us right now. ... This was big for us to stop the bleeding."
Bell and Jones both played high school and college ball in South Florida. ... Marion's missed free throw with 22 seconds left was Phoenix's only one from the line all night. ... Heat G Jason Kapono played the final 15:02 of the first half; he'd played a total of 2:31 in Miami's previous five games. ... Both teams had 14 turnovers, but Phoenix turned Miami's miscues into 24 points -- while the Heat managed only 11 off the Suns' giveaways.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||37-82 (.451)||40-90 (.444)|
|3PM-3PA||13-24 (.542)||6-21 (.286)|
|FTM-FTA||20-21 (.952)||12-22 (.545)|
|Fast Break Points||14||11|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (0/0)||21 (0/0)|