There was a lot at stake for the Phoenix Suns on Friday, and the Miami Heat stood in the way of their success.
The Suns were on a four-game losing streak and sitting at sixth in the Western Conference standings. With a loss, Phoenix could possibly drop to the seventh seed, further tightening the race for the ever-changing West.
The Heat, despite being on the final stop of a road trip, made sure to lead throughout the contest. That didn’t stop Phoenix, though, as the Suns gave a hard fought battle that came down to the final minutes of play.
Miami was able to walk away the victor however, handing Phoenix its fifth straight loss.
Suns’ Injury Bug Strikes Again
Though every team goes through injury bouts, none have come close to what the Suns have endured this season. Devin Booker (groin), Cameron Johnson (knee) and Cameron Payne (foot) were all out of Friday’s action.
The Suns were dealt another hard blow as Chris Paul also exited the contest with hip soreness. Paul’s injury cost him the entire second half of play. Without Paul, the Suns are now severely depleted at the guard position.
Landry Shamet and Duane Washington, Jr. may have once found themselves as end of the bench pieces, but they became focal points on Friday. Regardless of the Suns focusing on the next man up, being without both of their starting guards along with Payne is a significant issue.
How long Paul remains out is unknown, but the overall hope is just a precautionary measure for Friday’s game only.
Torrey Craig, Washington Jr. Step Up
If the Suns had any chance of walking away victorious against the Heat, it would require a takeover from some of their reserves. Such was the case for Washington, Jr.
Washington, Jr. hasn’t found consistent minutes throughout the season, but that could change depending on Paul’s timeline with his injury. Washington, Jr. showed his ability to handle the pressure, scoring 13 points along with seven assists against Miami.
Craig also continued to show his importance to the Suns’ success, even when the team returns to full health. Craig led the team in scoring up until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. He ended with 17 points while shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. He also added in nine rebounds.
Shooting Slump Continues
It’s no secret that now without Paul as well, the Suns’ shooting prowess would take a huge dip. Phoenix shot 37 percent from the field while going 19 percent from downtown.
From a numbers perspective, no team in the modern era can lead or sustain a lead with such poor shooting. The Suns did still posses one effective scorer in Mikal Bridges, but his dependability wasn’t present. Bridges wasn’t able to connect on his first field goal until the fourth quarter. He was 0-for-8 from the field prior to that.
Damion Lee has been a consistent marksman this season, so his services from three-point range were heavily required on Friday. Still, Lee only attempted four shots, with foul trouble hindering his opportunities.
With their fifth straight loss, the Suns have a shot at redemption at home on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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