Steve Nash is currently enjoying arguably his most proficient stretch of setting up teammates in his career. But the point guard for the Phoenix Suns has also proven to be quite adept at scoring points against the Miami Heat.
Nash and the Suns—looking to bounce back from a loss to the NBA’s worst team—play their first home game of the month Monday when they host the Heat.
Phoenix (16-5) is second in the league in scoring at 110.2 points per game and won four games on a recently completed five-game road trip. The Suns, though, had a five-game overall winning streak snapped after a 100-93 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who entered the game just 2-15.
Nash, though, did what he could. He finished with 14 points and 15 assists, his fifth consecutive game with at least 15 assists.
The only other player to accomplish that feat since the start of the 1991-92 season was Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton—the NBA’s all-time assist leader—who had a five-game run from Feb. 27-March 6, 1992.
Nash did not seem very disappointed with the loss, citing the team’s fatigue from the road trip as a primary reason for the loss.
“This one doesn’t bother me as much as the others,” he admitted. “You know, it’s five of seven nights out East and guys are sick and banged up, so we just couldn’t really get it going tonight. I can wash this one away a little easier than other nights.”
Since joining the Suns in 2004, Nash has called his own number more—and still been productive—against the Heat. He hit six 3-pointers and scored 30 points—more than double his career average of 14.1 points—and had eight assists in a 106-101 victory at Miami on Nov. 9.
Nash is averaging 19.2 points and 12.3 assists in seven games versus Miami with the Suns, shooting 62.5 percent (20-for-32) from 3-point range and 56.8 percent overall. He also has an assist-to-turnover ratio of greater than 4-to-1 in helping Phoenix win six of those seven contests, including the last five.
The Suns are 6-2 at home, and have won four straight and eight of their last nine against the Heat at US Airways Center.
Miami (5-15) is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA at 92.0 points per game, but guard Dwyane Wade has helped the Heat find a rhythm of late. The Heat have averaged 105.0 points their last four games, and the offensive surge finally paid dividends in a 100-94 victory Sunday over the Los Angeles Clippers that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Wade has averaged 28.8 points and 9.8 assists during the four-game stretch and is averaging 21.2 points overall after missing the first seven games recovering from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries. He had a season-high 35 points Sunday, making 13 of 23 shots and also recording 10 assists.
“We got stops towards the end of the game and executed offensively,” Wade said. “The past three games we hadn’t gotten any stops and offensively we died down, but tonight coach brought that up before the game and we went out and did it.”
Shaquille O’Neal added eight points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes, but again sat out down the stretch as Riley used Alonzo Mourning the final 1:07. O’Neal, who was critical of teammates earlier in the week for not getting him the ball more, has averaged just 9.4 points his last five games and 14.6 for the season—well off his career mark of 25.7 points per game.
“Zo is a little more mobile than Shaq right now,” Riley said. “You could see that Shaq was laboring a little bit because of his thigh, so he was dragging his leg around doing the best job he could do. (Mourning’s) a shot blocker, he’s a big body and everybody knows he’s coming. He gives our players confidence because he can get up there and he has such good timing.”
Wade did not play in the first game between the teams.