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MIAMI (CBSMiami/SDI) – The Miami Heat begin a six-game road trip, which guard Dwyane Wade told reporters is their “greatest challenge of the season,” Friday night against the struggling Phoenix Suns. The Heat continued their see-saw campaign with a 98-90 loss to New York on Wednesday after winning three in a row and will go after their 11th straight victory over Phoenix.
“I think we’re still trying to learn how to win,” Miami’s leading scorer Chris Bosh told reporters. “We’re not good enough to just come in and show up and think that’s enough. Once again, we’ve taken a step back. We’re not there yet.”
Bosh is averaging 27.3 points over the last three games and should be able to have another big night against the Suns, who stand last in the league in scoring defense. Phoenix snapped a nine-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 111-102 victory over Charlotte at home after making a season-best 19 from 3-point range. Rookie Devin Booker is starting to emerge for the Suns after the loss of leading scorer Eric Bledsoe (knee), averaging 15 points the last four games.
Miami guard Goran Dragic returns to Phoenix for the first time since last season’s trade after a five-game stretch in which he shot 56.1 percent from the field and averaged 14.4 points. Wade has put up 45 points combined in the last two games after an off night against Washington, trailing only Bosh (19.2) in scoring at 18.5. Center Hassan Whiteside has been bothered by a sore knee the past week, missing the win over Indiana on Monday before returning to post eight points and eight rebounds.
Booker’s improvement will help spur optimism and Mirza Teletovic has raised his level of play in the past four games as well, averaging 15.8 points. With Bledsoe gone, the Suns have only three double-figure scorers and forward Markieff Morris (10.5) has been stapled to the bench in four consecutive contests. Point guard Brandon Knight (19.6 points, 5.3 assists) has scored 22 per game the last three and forward T.J. Warren produced at least 17 points in three of his last four outings.
1. Miami F Luol Deng averages 10 points, but has scored below double figures in eight of his last nine games.
2. The Suns waived G Bryce Cotton and PF Cory Jefferson on Thursday, reducing the roster to 13.
3. The Heat were second in the league in scoring defense (94.7) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (4.28) entering Thursday’s games.
PREDICTION: Heat 106, Suns 96
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