With home losses to the lowly Nets and Timberwolves already on the résumé, coach Erik Spoelstra sold Thursday night’s game to his team against the woeful Phoenix Suns as an opportunity to avoid another unnecessary slip up.
He’s going to have to figure out a way to deliver the same message two more times this weekend.
Behind 27 points and seven assists from Dwyane Wade, a season-high 25 points from Goran Dragic and nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocks from Hassan Whiteside, the Heat sent the Suns to a franchise-record tying 17th consecutive road loss with a relative easy 108-92 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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“This is the time of year you’ve got to win games you’re supposed to win,” said Wade, who fought through a headache and cold to help the Heat to its 12th consecutive win over the Suns.
“No matter what, you’re not going to play great every night but you’ve got to find ways to win. We’re going to go to Philly and we’re going to play a team that has nothing to lose, a team that will give us everything they have. We’ve got to find a way to win the ballgame and be professional about it. You don’t have to blow a team out. You’ve got to win a game in this quick turnaround. It’s a chance to see how much we’ve grown from earlier in the season.”
The Suns, losers of 30 of their last 33 games, trailed by as many as 21 points and were down 84-68 at the start of the fourth quarter. But Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 43 points in Tuesday’s 34-point loss at Charlotte, rallied behind 19-year-old rookie Devin Booker’s career-high 34 points to trim the Heat’s lead to 88-77 with 8:46 to play.
That forced Wade to get back off the bench on a night he probably could have used some rest.
The Heat, though, still took care of business. Coming off a franchise-record shooting night (67.5 percent) in a 129-111 win over the Bulls, Miami shot 48.2 percent and held the Suns to 40.2 percent.
The Heat (35-26) is now 22-2 this season when its hold opponents to 41.0 percent shooting or less.
Rookie Josh Richardson dislocated his left middle finger late in the third quarter after he attempted to block John Jenkins’ shot from behind on a fast break. X-rays were negative and Richardson returned in the fourth quarter.
“It was one of them things like ‘Yo, I don’t know what to do – help me,’ ” Richardson said. “I’m glad it wasn’t broke or anything. I feel like I can still play with it. [Luol Deng] told me just to make sure I sleep with the splint on.”
After using only three players off the bench in each of the Heat’s two previous wins, Gerald Green and Josh McRoberts their first action since the Joe Johnson signing.
Green, who hadn’t scored in a span of 71 minutes before entering late in the first quarter, missed his first shot. But his dunk with 10:20 left in the first half put an end to a personal 0-for-14 stretch dating back to his previous basket on Feb. 20 against the Wizards.
“It was good to finally see it go in and down again,” said Green, who finished with four points (2 of 7 shooting) in 10 minutes. “As a shooter man you’re going to have times you go through slumps. I couldn’t get no worse than I was already playing. I knew it had to get better at some point.”
▪ Whiteside, who has been a dominant force in the absence of Chris Bosh since the All-Star break, had his streak of six consecutive double-doubles off the bench come to an end.
But Whiteside still became only the second player in Heat history to record 200 blocks in a single season and the fastest in the NBA to do it (52 games) since Marcus Camby in 2007-08.
Friday: Heat at 76ers
When, where: 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
TV, radio: Fox Sports Sun; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Heat lead 54-53.
Scouting report: The Heat has won 20 of the last 23 in the series, including a 96-91 decision in Miami on Nov. 21. Sixers center Jahlil Okafor (right shin) didn’t practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Friday’s game.