Suns Take on Scorching Heat to Finish Road Trip

NBAE/Getty Images

Believe it or not, a handful of outsiders were writing off the Heat after their 1-2 start to the season. Losses to since-woeful Philadelphia and Brooklyn had them thinking fatigue and an overall malaise had finally touched the once untouchable Heat.

Miami’s nine wins in 10 games since is far more lasting proof to the contrary.

some_text

LeBron James is still the beginning and end of their success, even if the four-time MVP is averaging the lowest amount of points and rebounds per game since his rookie season. Making up for that is his efficiency, which includes a career high 59.7 percent shooting from the field.

The Heat look even more formidable with the return of Dwyane Wade, who missed two games after being affected with knee issues early in the season. In the Heat’s most recent victory, Wade scored a season-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

Like James, Chris Bosh is putting up the worst scoring and rebounding numbers since his first year in the league, but is shooting a career-high from the field (56.7 percent).

KEY MATCHUP

We’re going with two for this game, if only because the other two of Miami’s “Big Three” torched the Suns so badly last season.

Bosh averaged 21 points over the two meetings between Phoenix and Miami a year ago, but he did so on a whopping 76.2 percent shooting. Wade was similarly efficient, going off 22 points per contest on 64.3 percent from the field.

With P.J. Tucker likely drawing the assignment of guarding James, it falls to Gerald Green and Channing Frye to perform damage control on the MVP’s most dependable teammates. How effectively they do that will decide how much hard James has to work, particularly in the early going.

OPPONENT X-FACTOR

The Heat are one of the most prolific teams in the league when it comes to forcing opponents to cough up the ball. Miami comes up with 9.0 steals per game, good for fifth-best in the league. It’s a threat that becomes even more real against Phoenix, which still averages 17 turnovers per contest (seventh-most in the NBA).

With Eric Bledsoe still doubtful for tonight’s game, the Suns will need to carry over some of the caretaking skills they showed at Orlando, where they committed just nine turnovers compared to 25 assists.

FINAL THOUGHT

Marcus Morris has been one of the more lethal bench players in the league in recent weeks, averaging 13.8 points per game in just 24.8 minutes over the last five contests.

Here’s the kicker: his points are coming on 63.4 percent shooting, including 61.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The stretch has launched him to 21st in the league in three-point shooting. He joins Gerald Green (40th) and P.J. Tucker (3rd) in the top 40 in that category.