Miami (21-9) at Phoenix (13-14)

By JUSTIN EINHORN, STATS Senior Editor Thursday, Dec 23, 2010 Tipoff: 10:30 pm EST Thu Dec 23, 2010

It appears the Miami Heat have worked out the kinks with their influx of new talent. Now the Phoenix Suns begin trying to do the same.

While Vince Carter(notes) might not be ready yet, the Phoenix debuts of two other newcomers following a blockbuster trade will come Thursday night against a Miami team looking to bounce back from having a 12-game winning streak snapped.

Though the deal that sent them to the Suns (13-14) was completed Sunday, Carter, Mickael Pietrus(notes) and Marcin Gortat(notes) have yet to play with their new team since coming over from Orlando for Jason Richardson(notes), Hedo Turkoglu(notes), Earl Clark(notes) and a first-round pick.

“We should be optimistic,” Steve Nash(notes) said. “We got a lot of guys coming in that give us size, depth and scoring, and defense. We should be a better team.”

Carter was the biggest name in the trade but also the oldest at 33, and it seems a lingering knee injury might prevent him from playing Thursday. The eight-time All-Star is averaging a career-low 15.1 points.

“He’s still a little sore and there’s no reason to rush things,” coach Alvin Gentry told the Suns’ official website. “We want him healthy before we run him out there.”

Phoenix is expecting to improve defensively with the arrival of Pietrus and particularly Gortat, a 6-foot-11 center and former first-round pick who saw limited minutes behind Dwight Howard(notes) in Orlando.

“I’m going to fit this style perfectly,” said Gortat, who has averaged 9.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine career games when playing more than 27 minutes.

Gortat’s first game in a Suns uniform could be a tough one because he may be asked to help shut down Chris Bosh(notes), who has averaged 28.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in his last seven games against Phoenix.

Part of Miami’s early struggles included Bosh’s slow start - he averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds through 10 games with his new team - but his turnaround began with a 35-point effort in a 123-96 win over Phoenix on Nov. 17.

Dwyane Wade(notes) also began to assert himself more offensively not long after that, and he’s averaged 27.7 points in the last 10 games. His surge helped the Heat win 12 in a row until Monday’s 98-96 home loss to Dallas, one of four teams with a better record than Miami (21-9).

“All year, we’re going to continue to get better, to improve to get to the elite level,” Wade said. “We’re 30 games in. These elite teams, they’ve been playing together for a long time.”

LeBron James(notes) went 6 of 17 from the field and was held to 19 points after scoring 32 in each of the previous two games. Miami is 10-0 when James shoots better than 50 percent, compared to 11-9 otherwise.

James has averaged 34.0 points over his last five games in Phoenix and Wade has averaged 31.4 in five career visits.

The Heat have won their last three trips to US Airways Center and have won seven straight on the road.

While Miami is allowing a league-low 91.5 points per game, Phoenix gives up 110.2 per game. The Suns surrendered at least 110 in both games since the trade, winning at Oklahoma City before losing 118-110 at San Antonio on Monday, and they’ve lost five of seven.

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