Suns-Heat Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 19, 2012
By taking advantage of a portion of their schedule loaded with home games, the Phoenix Suns have crept into the Western Conference playoff picture. Their next 3 1/2 weeks are filled with road contests, and that stretch begins Tuesday night in one of the NBA's toughest arenas. The Suns try to extend their longest winning streak of the season to five games when they meet a Miami Heat team seeking its 14th straight home victory. With a 99-86 win over Houston on Sunday, Phoenix (23-22) moved over .500 for the first time and pulled within one-half game of the Rockets for the West's final playoff spot. Michael Redd had a season-high 25 points off the bench, Channing Frye scored 19 and Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who are 11-3 in their last 14 games. "The chemistry is coming together," coach Alvin Gentry said. "I'm not sure how that happens and nobody can tell you how that happens. Guys are feeling pretty comfortable in their roles." The offense certainly seems to be coming together, as Phoenix is averaging 102.3 points in its last 14 games - 8.6 better than in its previous 17. Gortat is averaging 17.3 points on 59.3 percent shooting in the last 14 contests, while Jared Dudley is averaging 17.4 points in the past five. "Every night there is someone else playing big minutes and having a big game," Gortat said. Although Phoenix has been one of the league's hottest teams over the last month, only two of its past 14 games have been on the road. It lost 115-104 in Oklahoma City on March 7 and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 91-87 at Staples Center on Thursday, snapping a four-game road losing streak. The Suns are about to become much more familiar with life on the road with 12 of their next 15 away from Phoenix. "We're clicking, we're playing well," forward Grant Hill said. "We're feeling good and we've got to continue with that momentum now going east and playing against one of the best teams, in Miami." The Heat (33-11) are 19-2 at home and have reeled off 13 consecutive wins at AmericanAirlines Arena since a 91-82 loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 22. They haven't won 14 in a row at home since Jan. 22-March 16, 2007. Defense has helped keyed the surge, as Miami is allowing an average of 88.6 points during the home winning streak. The Heat shut down Orlando on Sunday, limiting the Magic to 39.5 percent shooting in a 91-81 win. Dwyane Wade scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, while LeBron James finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. "If I'm not getting it going scoring, it's time to focus on something else," said James, who was 4 of 14 from the field after combining for 64 points in his previous two games. "I try to be a complete basketball player." While James had trouble finding his shooting stroke, Chris Bosh finished with 23 points on 9 of 13 from the floor. The Heat improved to 15-2 when Bosh reaches the 20-point mark, and they're 17-7 when he scores 19 or fewer. "He's the biggest piece of our team," James said. "And when he's going, we're very dangerous." Bosh, who averages 18.0 points, had no trouble offensively in Miami's two games against the Suns last season. He scored 35 - tied for his highest output with the Heat - in a 123-96 home win and 23 in a 95-83 victory in Phoenix. This is the first meeting since James had 36 points in the win in Phoenix on Dec. 23, 2010. Dudley had a career-best 33 points in that game.
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