MIAMI (AP)—Pat Riley didn’t hesitate for a second.
He was right.
Nash was just that good.
Phoenix’s two-time MVP point guard went on a personal 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter, single-handedly carrying the Suns to a 106-101 win over the Heat on Friday night. Nash finished with 30 points and eight assists, plus was 6-for-7 from 3-point range.
“Steve Nash was unbelievable,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Leandro Barbosa finished with 17 points, Raja Bell scored 16 before leaving with a sprained ankle late in the fourth quarter, and Shawn Marion added 17 points and 24 rebounds for Phoenix, which shot 15-for-33 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t play great,” Nash said. “But we kept fighting, kept scrapping, and gave ourselves a chance to get a few stops and make a few shots when it really counted.”
Shaquille O’Neal had season-highs of 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which led by as many as 12 points before falling to 0-5. The Heat had a chance to tie with 9 seconds left, but Ricky Davis’ 3-pointer bounced off the rim.
“We did everything I thought we could possibly do,” Riley said.
Suns center Amare Stoudemire, who missed the past three games with a sore knee, started and scored nine points before being ejected early in the third quarter.
The Heat seemed to be on the cusp of their first win, leading by five with less than 5 minutes remaining. Without warning, Nash took over.
His game-changing burst started with one 3-pointer, then another in transition to give Phoenix the lead. A layup soon followed, and Nash sank the dagger with 1:21 left—another 3-pointer to put the Suns up 104-98.
“I don’t get used to it,” D’Antoni said. “It is fun every time I watch it.”
Over that stretch, Nash was 4-for-4 from the floor.
Miami was 0-for-6, and that was the difference.
“We played well enough to win that game,” Heat guard Smush Parker said. “Just was Steve Nash.”
Phoenix went up 10-2 after the first 2 1/2 minutes, and a blowout looked rather possible. But Miami—the league’s lowest-scoring team entering the night—went on its best spurt of the season after that rocky start.
Williams had seven unanswered points in a 44-second span to kickstart what became a 29-11 Miami run over the next 7 1/2 minutes, a burst that ended when O’Neal scored to give the Heat a 31-21 edge.
How stunning was that?
Well, it was the first time all season Miami led by double digits—which wasn’t any consolation.
“We lost, man,” Williams said. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding, somehow, someway.”
Miami matched a franchise record with 17 field goals in the opening quarter, and its 37 points in the first 12 minutes were one shy of what it managed in the first half two nights earlier at San Antonio.
The Heat led 60-55 at halftime, and Phoenix erased that deficit in the first 56 seconds of the second half.
Bell made a 3-pointer, Nash followed with a jumper to knot the game and the Heat called time-out with 10:57 left in the period. It didn’t help: Stoudemire’s three-point play put Phoenix on top one trip later.
That would be his final highlight. Stoudemire was ejected with 9:20 left in the third for arguing a foul call—drawing his second technical. Miami rebuilt its lead to eight points late in the third before settling for an 84-79 edge entering the frantic and final 12 minutes, but was outscored 27-17 in the fourth.
“We did a lot of things better,” Davis said. “We just didn’t get the win.”
Best miss of the night: All in one motion, Stoudemire grabbed a loose ball away from Alonzo Mourning with 1 second left in the half and threw it 90 feet in a desperate effort to beat the buzzer. The shot hit the backboard, a tad right of the rim. … It was the first start for Miami forward Penny Hardaway’s since late in the 2003-04 season. … Rory Sparrow, who made the first basket in Heat history, sat courtside. Now a vice president of player development for the NBA, Sparrow presented Dwyane Wade with an award honoring his community service during a brief halftime ceremony.