The first one wasn’t easy.
But at least it’s out of way for the Heat, which opened a six-game road trip Friday night by finishing strong in a 103-95 victory against the Phoenix Suns.
Miami, which plays 13 of its next 15 on the road, now heads to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz at 9 p.m. Saturday.
The Suns were just what the Heat needed to push-start the long trek, a slumping opponent that had lost 20 of its previous 25 games and hasn’t given the Heat trouble in years.
Never miss a local story.
The win was the Heat’s 11th in a row over the Suns — including eight straight in Phoenix.
But the Suns were stubborn, and the Heat required the assistance of two former Suns players — Goran Dragic and Gerald Green — to clear the first road hurdle.
“You always want to play good against your ex-team,” Dragic said. “It was an emotional game, especially for me and Gerald.”
Dragic, who was traded to the Heat 11 months ago, turned in a strong showing in his homecoming, pouring in 22 points to match a season high. Green, who spent the two previous seasons in Phoenix, added 21.
“The guys wanted to do it for them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We knew how important it would be to those guys.”
Said Chris Bosh: “I think it’s a little bit of [getting] the monkey off their back. This is one of those dates, if you’re them, you circle on the calendar at the start of the season.”
Dragic opened the scoring for the Heat with consecutive three-pointers, and Green was animated, staring down the crowd after baskets.
“Gerald is always wound up,” Spoelstra said with a smile.
Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 27 points, but enjoyed talking about the Phoenix homecomings for Dragic and Green.
“Obviously, Goran and Gerald really wanted it,” Wade said. “We knew they were going to be aggressive, and it was our job to allow them to be that. We were able to accomplish that.”
Still, it was a struggle for the Heat. And it was physical.
With 1:13 left in the game, Wade hit the deck with a loud thud on a layup attempt in which he was fouled hard by Suns first-round pick Devin Booker. Wade got back up, though, and calmly sank both free throws for a 100-91 lead.
The Suns wiped out a 13-point Heat halftime lead, going on a 25-6 run to start the third quarter. And in the fourth, after the Heat regained the lead it gave up in the third, back-to-back layups by Archie Goodwin gave Phoenix an 83-80 lead.
“They went to a zone and it kind of threw us off,” Wade said. “A home team is going to make a run. They made up 13 points fast, took the lead. But we responded great from that point on.”
Said Dragic: “They tested our character. But we stayed solid. We didn’t panic, just played a hard game.”
Dragic and Green drained consecutive threes to put the Heat back on top, 89-87, and Miami never looked back.
▪ The Heat shot 7 for 18 from three-point-range, an improvement from Wednesday night’s 2-for-17 performance in a home loss to the Knicks.