Phoenix Suns at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Phoenix Suns Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get you tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Suns 126-115 in their last meeting on Nov. 8. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What impressed you the most about Miami’s hugely significant victory over Detroit?
Couper Moorhead: How entirely business-like it was. Despite missing a number of key components of their rotation, the HEAT simply went about doing what they’re supposed to do on both ends of the floor came away with one of their most balanced efforts in weeks. The Pistons were, in fairness, playing on a back-to-back after an overtime game and appeared to generally run out of gas by midway through the third quarter, but they still fought like a team clinging to playoff life –- even if that desperate energy led to a number of turnovers that became easy Miami scores. And the result was no less important as Miami now sits four games up on No. 9 Detroit, with the season series tied. That type of cushion doesn’t guarantee anything, but the HEAT should be focused more on the teams ahead of them, and any that they could potentially pass (they’re just a game back of Milwaukee), than looking over their shoulder.
Joe Beguiristain: Above all else, Miami’s defense really stood out to me.
Thanks to a collective effort from Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and James Johnson, the HEAT held the Pistons in check for most of the contest. In fact, Johnson and Winslow held Griffin to 8-of-19 shooting when matched up with him on Saturday night.
Richardson, meanwhile, changed the complexion of the game in the second half with his energy on both ends of the floor. His aggressiveness helped turn a two-point lead late in the third quarter into a double-digit advantage midway through the fourth.
Simply put, it was an important victory that further distanced the HEAT from the Pistons in the standings. Now, that doesn’t mean that Detroit can’t go on a run and inch closer to Miami, but it was good that the HEAT took care of business.
2: How have the Suns played this year and in what way do they pose a threat to Miami?
Couper: The Suns are No. 28 in offensive efficiency and No. 30 on the defensive end as they have yet to hit 20 wins, but there’s enough talent on this team that looking strictly at the numbers can leave you unprepared. Young, talented teams struggle with consistency but are capable of exploding on any given night, and with potent scorers like Devin Booker and T.J. Warren and a lottery pick in Josh Jackson playing much better of late, the Suns are capable of doing what the Lakers did in Miami just a few nights ago (though the Lakers have been a significantly better defensive team this season).
The issue, for Phoenix, as far as this matchup goes is that they mostly run a frontcourt rotation of Alex Len, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss – all talented players but lacking in the size and athleticism to combat Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo (though Tyson Chandler started on Sunday against the Hawks). Both Bender and Chriss have some stretch to their game that the HEAT will have to respect, but Miami should be able to get a number of offensive rebounds should their shots not be falling or whatever reason.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, the Suns have struggled mightily on both ends of the floor this season. In fact, they’ve dropped 12 of their last 13 and have the worst net rating in the league over that span.
While things have been tough for Phoenix, the team does have some intriguing young talent. One guy in particular who has always impressed me is Marquese Chriss. Although he’s had an up and down year, the 20-year-old turned some heads with 17 points, five boards and four blocks in just 18 minutes against the Hawks on Sunday. On one play late in the third, Chriss swatted John Collins at the rim in transition. It’s that kind of athleticism that allows him to fit in quite well with the Suns.
Speaking of athleticism, if there’s one area where Phoenix can threaten Miami, it’s on the break. Like the Lakers, the Suns are one of the fastest teams in the league and like to get up and down the court in a hurry. While Phoenix doesn’t capitalize that much off looks in transition, neither did Los Angeles heading into its matchup with the HEAT on Thursday. The point is that Miami will need to make sure it stops the Suns from getting easy buckets either at the rim or from the perimeter on quick pull-up jumpers.
3: What has Elfrid Payton, added at the trade deadline, offered the Suns so far?
Couper: Payton has played quite well since his arrival, in nine games scoring 16.4 points, averaging 8.0 rebounds and 8.2 assists a game on 47.9 percent shooting. He still struggles from the perimeter, but Payton gives Phoenix a bit more of an offensive motor, one that can ease the playmaking pressure on Booker and Warren, but Phoenix is still getting outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
Of course, Payton has been a bit of a thorn in Miami’s side for years given how much trouble Orlando has given them. Payton always seems to be running a one-man break against the HEAT, finding those little eight foot runners and floaters that can catch Miami’s rim protectors a bit off guard due to their timing. The HEAT will likely shut down the paint as best they can and force Phoenix to quickly find open shooters before closeouts arrive, but Payton offers a bit of an edge that the Suns haven’t had recently.
Joe: Thanks to Payton’s vision and quickness off the dribble, the former Magic point guard has made a seamless transition into Phoenix’s starting lineup. In fact, Payton has already recorded two triple-doubles in just nine games with the Suns so far. He also leads Phoenix with a 35.4 assist percentage since his arrival.
While it’s no surprise that the bulk of Payton’s assists have gone to Devin Booker and T.J. Warren, it’s still impressive that he’s been able to build chemistry with those guys early on. With more reps and time on the court together, imagine what things will look like in the future.
INJURY UPDATE: Bam Adebayo will play. Wayne Ellington (left quad contusion) and Tyler Johnson (left quad contusion) are both listed as questionable.
- The HEAT have won three of four and are 33-30.
- The Suns have dropped 12 of 13 and enter the contest at 19-46.
- Erik Spoelstra is 16-2 against Phoenix in his career.
- Devin Booker leads the Suns in scoring at 25.1 points per game.
- HEAT Offense: 103.6 (24)
- HEAT Defense: 104.3 (8)
- Suns Offense: 101.7 (28)
- Suns Defense: 110.3 (30)