Heat gaining momentum before meeting red-hot Suns

NBA

Fresh off shutting down Damian Lillard in one of their best defensive performances of the season, the Miami Heat will try to contain the hot-shooting Suns on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Heat held Lillard, one of the NBA’s top scorers (28.7 points per game), to only 12 points and three made shots from the field in a 107-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

Miami’s defense contributed to 17 turnovers by the Blazers and prevailed in the first of a four-game road trip.

Bam Adebayo finished with 22 points and Jimmy Butler had 20 points and four steals to lead the Heat, who won for the sixth time in their past seven games.

“We were just trying to really hone in on defense,” Adebayo said. “We just really felt with this team that’s how you win. We were able to get stops and get into transition and get a few dunks. That’s why we won by a lot.”

Kendrick Nunn also had a solid performance on the defensive end and scored 15 points starting in place of Victor Oladipo, who is out indefinitely with right knee soreness. Nunn did not play in the Heat’s previous six games following Miami’s trade for Oladipo.

“It was great to be out there,” Nunn said. “I still put in work, so the step was not slow. I just came right back being like I never left.”

Devin Booker, who is averaging 26.0 points per game, presents the next major challenge for Miami’s defense. Booker finished with 24 points against the Houston Rockets on Monday, and had 23 points in the Suns’ 110-100 win over the Heat on March 23 in Miami.

But a familiar face for the Heat was the one who helped Phoenix tie an NBA record with 18 3-pointers in the first half of its 126-120 victory over the Rockets.

Jae Crowder, who played for the Heat last season, scored all 26 of his points in the first half and hit a career-high eight 3s. Phoenix matched the record for 3-pointers in a first half set by the Utah Jazz earlier this season in a game against Orlando.

The Suns, who have won 12 of their past 14 games, set a franchise record with 25 3-pointers overall on 45 attempts.

“The hoop did feel a little bigger tonight,” Crowder said.

But as prolific as Phoenix was offensively, it allowed the Rockets to stay in the game as they hit 17 3s themselves and shot 40.5 percent from long distance.

“We feel like we can close the game better as a group,” Crowder said. “We let those guys stick around, stick around, stick around.”

The Heat’s defense will get another boost once recently-signed center Dewayne Dedmon makes his team debut. The 7-foot Dedmon will play for his seventh NBA team, and has averaged 6.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in seven NBA seasons while appearing in 394 career games.

KZ Okpala remained out for Miami due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. For the Suns, Abdel Nader (right knee soreness) has missed the past 12 games.

–Field Level Media

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