The Suns had a hard time keeping their focus when they wrapped up a perfect five-game road trip by beating the NBA champion Heat without Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade on Dec. 13 in Miami.
They gave back almost all of their 25-point lead before regrouping to hold on for a 99-89 win.
That concentration level will be put to the test again tonight when the artists formerly known as the Heat limp into Phoenix to begin a six-game road trip under the toughest of circumstances.
O’Neal (knee surgery) is still out and has yet to begin workouts. Wade, who sprained his right wrist on Dec. 27, hasn’t practiced since and still has the wrist in a splint. He’s with the team but isn’t likely to play until later in the trip.
Antoine Walker and James Posey are healthy, but not healthy enough for coach Pat Riley. They were put on the inactive list Wednesday and stayed behind due to conditioning sanctions — they haven’t met the body-fat thresholds Riley prescribed before the season.
Even Riley isn’t in Phoenix. He took an indefinite leave of absence Wednesday and will have knee surgery today, followed by hip surgery that could keep him away for anywhere from one to three months.
Who’s left? Well, five players (Jason Kapono, Udonis Haslem, Robert Hite, Alonzo Mourning and Dorell Wright) who combined for 67 points against the Suns the last time around. Not exactly what ESPN had in mind when they moved this game to 8:30 p.m. as the nightcap of a nationally televised doubleheader.
Heat at Suns
When: 8:30 p.m. today
Where: US Airways Center
Radio: KTAR (620 AM)
TV: FSN Arizona/ESPN
Series history: This is as lopsided as it gets. The Suns lead the all-time series, 27-9, including a whopping 15-3 margin at home. They beat a watered-down Heat team 99-89 in Miami on Dec. 13 and will face the same type of foe this time around.
Scouting report: Heat – They aren’t very good at any level, especially on
offense, where they average just 93.3 points (No. 27). Obviously, they should
make the playoffs after Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade return, whenever
that may be. That plus their experience would make them dangerous in the first
round. But right now they don’t seem likely to go beyond that.
Suns – It’s hard to call a game against the defending champs a “little”
game, but the aura around the Heat disappeared quickly. Besides, the Suns
nearly always beat the Heat. This is a game the Suns need as they eye the
best record in the NBA.