Ready to begin their longest road trip of the season, the last thing the Miami Heat need are the lingering effects of another frustrating loss.
The Heat hope to bounce back and end their recent rough stretch Friday night with a third straight road victory over the surging Phoenix Suns in the opener of a six-game, nine-day Western Conference swing.
Miami (17-16) appeared to be heading toward a second straight victory Wednesday when Dwyane Wade’s(notes) steal and dunk with 0.6 seconds left in regulation gave the Heat a two-point lead over Boston. The Celtics’ Rajon Rondo(notes), however, beat the buzzer with a layup and also made a key bucket in overtime to help send Miami to its fourth loss in five games, 112-106.
“It really gets no tougher than this one,” said Wade, who finished with a season-high 44 points.
While the Heat were collectively rattled, they have no choice but to put that loss in the past as they begin a daunting trip in Phoenix. The Suns (23-13) are 14-3 at home and looking for their third straight victory overall.
Miami will likely need to improve on the offensive end if they hope to turn things around. The Heat are averaging 92.8 points in their last five games overall, reaching 100 once.
Miami could get a boost from point guard Rafer Alston(notes), who was signed Thursday for the remainder of the season. This will be Alston’s second stint with the Heat after averaging 10.2 points and 4.5 assists during Wade’s rookie season in 2003-04.
“Veteran guys are so important in this league,” Wade said of Alston. “They’ve done it for so long and Skip became a leader. He’s a general on the floor, really helps to lead his team.”
Alston averaged 9.7 and 3.9 assists in 27 games for New Jersey this season, but his contract was bought out by the Nets. The 33-year-old Alston started all 23 playoff games with Orlando last season when the Magic reached the NBA finals.
Miami has struggled recently and lost 104-96 at home to the Suns on Nov. 3. However, the Heat have won two in a row at US Airways Center.
Wade, averaging 33.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting in his last four games against the Suns, had 43 on 15-of-24 shooting in a 107-92 win in the teams’ last meeting in Phoenix on Nov. 28, 2008.
The Suns, however, are third in the West and have won five of seven after blowing a 16-point lead and rallying from the same deficit to beat Houston 118-110 at home Wednesday.
“It’s as crazy a game as I’ve ever been in,” said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, a 30-year coaching veteran.
Steve Nash(notes) had 26 points with 12 assists and Amare Stoudemire added 25 points with 11 rebounds as the NBA’s highest-scoring club (110.1 points per game) shot 54.4 percent and outscored the Rockets 33-24 in the final quarter.
“When we got down 16, we knew we were a better team than that,” Stoudemire said, “and we fought back. We hung in there, kept our composure and our focus, and we got the win.”
Nash, averaging 25.0 points and 12.3 assists in his last three games, has 59 points and 18 assists in his last two against Miami. He scored a team-leading 30 against the Heat earlier this season.