Dan Bickley and Mark Faller discuss the Indiana job opening, which could pull Steve Alford away from UCLA, and whether the Bruins would pursue Suns’ head coach Earl Watson. Video: azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports
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Suns point guard Tyler Ulis reacts to Friday’s home loss to the Magic.
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USA TODAY Sports
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USA TODAY Sports
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Phoenix Suns center Alan Williams watches his mother, Jeri Williams, sworn in as Phoenix police chief in Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Paul Coro/azcentral sports)
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Hosted by head coach Earl Watson, who says the Suns “embrace and celebrate our youth.” Video: Phoenix Suns
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MIAMI – This is how it goes for the Suns: Two rotation players return, another leaves.
The good news for Phoenix fans: Guard Devin Booker returned Tuesday night after missing a game with an ankle issue. Reserve guard Leandro Barbosa also was back after missing two games due to illness.
The bad: Top post reserve Alan Williams was sent home before the contest with gastroenteritis. After health issues and management decisions limited the Suns to eight players in Sunday’s loss to Detroit, coach Earl Watson said he never had experienced anything like this. Not in two years as a coach. Not in 13 as a player.
He better hope Williams isn’t contagious.
This is a long way of saying the Suns had a few hurdles to clear against the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. They stumbled, falling 112-97 on the second of this six-game trip. Their fifth consecutive loss matched a season high. Hope comes with Thursday’s trip to Brooklyn. The Nets are the worst team in the league.
The Suns are 22-49.
BOX SCORE: Heat 112, Suns 97
This got away from the Suns in the second quarter. With 7:59 to go until halftime, Jared Dudley hit an 18-foot jumper for a 36-31 lead. Then the Heat – one of the NBA’s hottest teams but still fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff spot – woke up. Wayne Ellington swished three 3-pointers in 46 seconds, fueling a 21-3 spurt that gave Miami a 52-39 lead.
The Heat stretched that advantage to 22 in the third quarter, but the Suns didn’t fold. That’s something Watson has pointed out after nearly every recent loss. Even with point guard Eric Bledsoe, sixth-man Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler shut down for the season, the Suns have fought. And so they did against Miami, pulling within 11 three times in the fourth quarter.
The Heat, however, held, pulling away and improving to 35-36. Led by Hassan Whiteside’s 23 points, Miami posted seven players in double figures. The Heat shot 43.8 percent and canned 11 3-pointers. Whiteside – the Eastern Conference Player of the Week – also had 14 rebounds.
Although Booker was back, he still didn’t look like himself, shooting 4 of 16 and committing seven turnovers. Ball security was an issue for nearly everyone. The Suns had 24 turnovers (their season high is 26), mistakes the Heat turned into 23 points. Overall, Miami had 19 fast-break points and 25 second-chance points.
With Williams out, center Alex Len played 35 minutes and produced 12 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double since the All-Star break. Rookie Marquese Chriss had an efficient night, scoring 24 points, making 7 of 9 from the field and 8 of 10 from the foul line. Barbosa added 13 points off the bench.
The Suns shot 43.9 percent.