Without two starters and his sixth man, the Miami Heat managed to keep him close for most of the game.
But the (very) shorthanded Miami Heat (43-27) didn’t have enough in a 119-112 defeat to the Phoenix Suns (31-39) Saturday night in his fifth of eight seeding games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. in Lake Buena Vista.
The Suns are the only team left undefeated at Disney, as they won their first five seeded games in an effort to claim their final spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
Butler (right foot pain), Dragic (left ankle sprain), Nunn (personal reasons) and KZ forward Okpala (personal reasons) did not play for the Heat.
It was a close match that included 11 lead changes and six draws.
The Suns entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead and took the lead up to nine points in the last quarter.
The Heat continued to compete the whole time, cutting the deficit to three with 31.4 seconds left.
But heat center Bam Adebayo was called for a goal in a Devin Booker layup attempt with 12 seconds left. That play brought the Suns lead to five and the Heat didn’t score again.
The defense of the Heat struggled to contain the Suns, who finished with 119 points with a 47.8% shot.
Booker led Phoenix with 35 points from 15 shots on 26 and six assists.
The next round for the Heat is a juicy and important match against the Indiana Pacers on Monday at 8pm (Fox Sports Sun).
Five conclusions from the Heat’s defeat to the Suns on Saturday at VISA Athletic Center:
The Heat played without two starters and his sixth man on Saturday. And as expected, the Heat rotation was very different.
Miami entered the game with 13 players available and forced manager Erik Spoelstra to make some adjustments.
The Heat have used his 13th different starting lineup of the season and already his third different starting lineup in five seeded matches: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr., Jae Crowder and Adebayo. This five-man group hadn’t played together in a match before Saturday.
Saturday’s Heat bench rotation included Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, Solomon Hill and Gabe Vincent.
Vincent, a guard on a duo contract, logged long minutes at the point guard with Butler, Dragic and Nunn out. In his first action during seed matches, the 24-year-old rookie finished with four points on a 2-for-8 shot in 19 minutes.
As for the three Heat rotation players who weren’t available, no one should waste extended time.
Butler (pain in right foot) missed his third straight game on Saturday. An MRI and X-ray revealed no structural damage and the expectation is that Butler will be ready for the playoffs to start on August 17, if not sooner.
Butler’s agent Bernie Lee told the Miami Herald on Friday, “Jimmy had his last scan yesterday. And we know what it has to do with. And he’s working hard to get back on track as soon as possible and be ready for the playoffs. “
Dragic, who managed to take the field for shooting practice on Friday, missed his second consecutive match on Saturday with a sprained left ankle. Spoelstra said before the game that Dragic “is making progress”.
Nunn skipped Saturday’s game after leaving the NBA bubble for personal reasons not related to COVID-19. According to a source, he is expected to return soon, but it is not determined how many days it will take him to quarantine when he returns to Disney.
The expectation is that Nunn will be back in uniform and available for the start of the playoffs or potentially sooner.
“He’s not back yet,” Spoelstra said of Nunn ahead of Saturday’s game. “And we’ll have more information tomorrow.”
With three of the Heat’s top four scorers eliminated, Herro came forward big time. But it was not enough.
The 20-year-old rookie from Miami made his seventh start on Saturday and helped fill a portion of the score gap with 25 points. He also finished with eight career rebounds and 10 assists.
Herro was aggressive from the start, scoring 12 of 4 of 7 points from the field and 4 of 4 from the foul line in the first quarter.
Herro, who in the past has said that he closely studies Booker’s game, held up his match against the Suns All-Star guard. But Booker came out with 35 points and victory.
Herro’s performance was necessary, considering that the missing Heat trio of Butler, Dragic and Nunn have averaged around 52 points per game this season.
Adebayo was solid and came close to the fourth triple double.
The Heat All-Star center finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and three blocks in 30 minutes.
It was a good rebound game for Adebayo, who scored just six points in Thursday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Crowder continues to make three at an impressive rate.
The veteran striker finished Saturday’s game with 17 points out of 4 out of 5 on a three-pointer in 27 minutes despite fighting over problems with fouls in the first half. He was called for his third foul with 4:08 remaining in the second quarter and picked up his fourth foul with 9:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Crowder, 30, has now made 17 of 29 three in five seedings. It’s just a continuation of his hot shot since the Memphis Grizzlies swapped him for the Heat in February, as he made 44.1% of his three in his 18 games with Miami.
It’s a big leap from the start of this season. Crowder, who shot 33.8 percent of three during his NBA career, has only made 29.3 percent of his three strikers in 45 games with the Grizzlies this season.
The Heat continues to hold fourth place in the Eastern Conference. But that’s just because of a tie.
With Miami losing and Indiana beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Heat and Pacers hold the same record of 43-27. But Miami remains in fourth place because he holds the heads-up tie after winning his first two fights with Indiana this season.
The Heat and the Pacers are only halfway through the game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in sixth place.
The possibility of Miami entering the playoffs as seeded number 4 or number 5 – no difference between the two because there is no real home advantage in the bubble – is even more likely than not, with only three games of seeding left. But two of those matches come against the Pacers, who will go a long way to determine where the Heat ends up in the conference and which team they face in the first round.
The good news for Miami is that it has already won the tiebreaker over Philadelphia and Indiana.
Climbing to number 3 is no longer possible for the Heat. Miami is 3.5 games behind third-placed Boston Celtics, with only three seeded games remaining to play.