The injuries continue to pile up for the Phoenix Suns in their loss to the Miami Heat

The injuries continue to pile up for the Phoenix Suns in their loss to the Miami Heat

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns have run out of room to maneuver when it comes to the state of a short roster and can’t seem to catch a break on the injury front.

Just as Cam Payne and Landry Shamet returned Monday, Payne re-injured his right foot Wednesday and then Chris Paul exited Friday’s 104-96 loss to the Miami Heat with a sore right hip.

Phoenix is ​​barely built to handle a significant absence among its top three ball handlers in Paul, Payne and Devin Booker (strained left groin), so when two or more can’t be on the floor, it’s putting the team in a position to fail.

The Suns failed to break 100 points for the third straight game, the first time that has happened since November 2018. by Stathead. This was the year Igor Kokoskov Phoenix started 4-24 and finished 19-63.

You can sense how desperately Phoenix wants to win a game to try and make anything work, and now it’s palpable how frustrated they are as well.

It was two games in a row of positive effort, a step in the right direction. This group does not want moral victories. They want the real ones.

“Yeah, I appreciate the fight, but I still think we could have won that game,” forward Torrey Craig said. “With guys out or not, I think we still should have won this game and that’s the most frustrating thing.”

“It just brings us together even more,” forward Mikal Bridges said of the loss. “This is what we have to do. When you win, it’s easy to stick together, so our true selves will show when we lose. We just keep fighting. You stick together more as a team when you lose, that’s going to show whether you’re a really good team or not and I think we have that.”

“Yeah, we’re desperate,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “We’ve just got to keep at it. We can make a lot of excuses, but the next-man-up mentality.”

Paul has been visibly moving this season, which of course can be attributed to his 37 years of age. But his shooting form has been inconsistent almost all year. Sometimes he makes the routine shots he knocks down in his sleep seem arduous, talking to something else that’s happening physically. And just when it looked like he was starting to get his legs back a bit in the last two weeks, another setback came.

The first defender called for a substitution with less than five minutes left in the first half after playing just 12. There was no obvious play to look back at where Paul got hurt. He was already in a tough spot after playing 40 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Phoenix lost the game after taking another lead in the first quarter. A seven-point deficit wasn’t too bad, but it continues the trend the Suns had going into the night with a league-worst +/- of -65 since their 4-12 stretch began on December 5th. It is now 4-13 and -72.

The Suns were able to hang on in the second quarter and were only down five at the half. His energy and physical play carried over from the encouraging effort in Cleveland. But once Paul wasn’t there to start the second half, you could sense that the momentum had drained them.

The Suns, however, deserve credit for doing it and even making it a two-point game late in the third quarter and continuing to compete in the final dozen minutes. They had the Heat up by seven points with less than seven minutes remaining until a 7-0 Miami run seemingly closed things out until the Suns got the Heat to win it in the final two possessions in a six-point, one-minute game. left handed.

One of the big issues intertwined in this stretch is that the Suns are asking a lot more of Ayton and Bridges offensively, a climb up the pecking order that neither player seemed particularly ready for despite being in their fifth season. To be fair to them, they’ve been supporting cast members and couldn’t expect to have that much weight on their shoulders at any point this year.

Both did not play well on Friday, although they were productive. Ayton finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Bridges finished with 15 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Ayton shot 10-for-20 while Bridges went 2-for-10.

They showed some positives through the struggles.

Phoenix was straightforward in its plan to introduce Ayton as the No. 1 offense in the first half, and while the results were mixed, it was good to see 1) how much he was forced to do and 2) the Ayton’s intention. to shoot

Speaking of intent, Bridges tried to drive right through his defender almost every time he went to the basket. This is something he needs to improve on, as Bridges is a great slasher and finisher at the rim. Drawing fouls is the next step and a career-high 10-for-10 at the foul line was good progress.

Given that effort, Bridges is right next to Paul and a few other guys on the team that you can see not moving at this point. Bridges has clearly been playing with something for the past few weeks and you can see him on the court working at times.

He denied any type of injury that held him back.

“I’m fine,” Bridges said. “There’s nothing wrong with my body that’s making me play as bad as I am, especially on the offensive end. I’m just trying to get shots and it’s not going in. This has nothing to do with my body and what hurts me. That’s just me.”

Ayton cut off a question about Bridges’ ironman ability to play through injuries by saying he’s seen Bridges play through “everything” and noted that Landry Shamet was another Suns player playing through pain.

“That man takes a beating every night,” Ayton said of Bridges. “He is beaten. And the only thing we can help Mikal do is try to win, man. Because it won’t stop, it won’t back down and it won’t go out.”

Craig is also among that group where you can see something bothering them and had one of his best games of the season after returning to the starting lineup after a brief one-game stint on the bench. He had 17 points to go along with nine rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.

All three, however, weren’t the ones to really pick up the bat and take some swings without Booker, Paul or Payne out there to make shots. Duane Washington Jr. he never leaves the bat in his hands.

Washington led the charge in the third quarter that managed to keep the game close. Despite the clear need on the roster for someone like him, unafraid to attack off the dribble with a penchant for scoring, Washington’s playing time has been inconsistent. That can probably be attributed to his mostly all-around defensive game, which was expected for a 22-year-old in his second NBA season. He was 5 of 18 from the field with 13 points and seven assists.

Miami was able to play through its fundamentals to never put this game in doubt. Their defense rotated fairly consistently and the offense generated good looks for most of the night. It was the kind of “good” performance from a decent team that the Suns would normally wear down over time to a comfortable win.

Victor Oladipo led all scorers with 26 points off the bench.

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