When Phoenix last played Miami, it was November. That was back when the Suns were still finding out who they were, and had only provided early hints to the feel-good story they would later become.
Since that 107-92 loss at Miami, the Suns have beaten the Rockets, Blazers, Warriors (twice), Clippers and Pacers (twice). A win over the Heat would certainly add to an already impressive resumé.
Will Phoenix pull it off? Here are five things that will determine the answer.
With guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat don’t appear to be a slow-paced team.
Think again. Miami ranks 24th in the league in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) and averages the fewest amount of shot attempts per contest (76.7).
The Suns are on the opposite end, ranking sixth in pace and ninth in shot attempts per game.
In short, Miami relies on efficiency, Phoenix on opportunity. Whoever asserts the preferred tempo for the majority of the game will likely have the inside track for the win.
Will Dragon’s Run Continue?
Stephen Curry. Paul George. Chris Paul.
Goran Dragic has kept pace or outperformed a multitude of NBA stars this season, and the Suns will need a similar effort against Miami’s talent-stocked roster.
Considering Dragic is the only other player in the league besides LeBron James to average at least 20 points and six assists while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, we figure he’s got a shot.
Reversal of Rebounding
The Suns won the battle of the boards the last time they faced Miami, including a hefty plus-7 in offensive rebounds.
Miami is a notoriously poor rebounding team (last in the league) due to their smaller lineups, something bigs like Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris will ideally take advantage of.
Gerald Green scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against the Warriors, the 13th time he has finished with at least 20 points this season. Green is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.9 points per game and ranks in the top 15 in the league in three-pointers made per game (2.3).
Green, however, has logged back-to-back 20-point games just three times this season. Such performances have proven to be a huge difference-maker, as the Suns have won the last 10 games the veteran swingman has eclipsed the 20-point mark.
The Heat are the best in the league at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes. Miami leads in the NBA in points off turnovers (19.5). They cause a lot of mistakes, as well (17.4 opponent turnovers per game, first in league).
The Suns won on Saturday despite committing 17 turnovers, but they’ll want to cut that number by a half dozen if they can. Phoenix is 8-2 in games they commit 11 turnovers or less.