Time: 5:30 pm MDT
After winning the first two games of their east coast road trip, the Suns are riding high. Despite Eric Bledsoe missing the last four games, Phoenix has found ways to win. The Suns’ defense is among the league’s best, and Coach Hornacek is getting contributions from every part of the roster. But tonight they visit the defending champions and King James himself. The Heat, after a few early stumbles, have ridden a six-game win streak to a 10-3 record, and once again, they look like the class of the league. But Miami does have its weaknesses. The Vegas spread for this game may be double digits, but the Suns have better than just a puncher’s chance to win. For more analysis, let’s look at the three biggest questions to be answered in this matchup.
Can the Suns take advantage of the Heat from downtown?
The Heat are not a good defensive team at this point in the season. One of their biggest weaknesses is defending the three. Miami is giving up over nine triples per contest and allowing opponents to hit nearly 40% from beyond the arc. The Suns have been a great three point shooting team thus far this year. Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye, and Marcus Morris have all been very productive from three. Floor spacing and ball movement will be key to attacking a Miami team which is high on athleticism but slow to rotate and close out on the perimeter. The Suns will need to hit double digits from downtown to keep pace with Miami’s top rated offense. If the Suns are cold from downtown, this game could get ugly in a hurry.
How will the Suns defend the Big Three?
Phoenix currently ranks seventh in defensive efficiency. Miami is #1 by a wide margin in offensive efficiency, thanks to a ridiculously efficient start to the season by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. LeBron is having another MVP caliber year. Wade has been dealing with injury, but he’s coming off a 27-point performance against the Magic. And though Chris Bosh’s scoring and rebounding are both down this season, he’s still a lethal jump shooter with a better than average first step for a big man. The Heat have fully embraced small ball this year, which makes Bosh their de facto center. Miles Plumlee will draw the defensive assignment, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Markieff Morris spent a lot of time guarding Bosh as well. The key for the Suns front line is to get a hand in Bosh’s face when he pulls up from midrange. As for guarding LeBron, this is the sort of opportunity P.J. Tucker lives for. His job will not be to stop LeBron. Nobody can do that. Instead his job will be to make LeBron work and stay out of foul trouble. The same goes for Gerald Green when guarding Dwyane Wade. Green has to keep his composure and stay on the court.
Will the Suns miss Michael Beasley?
Beasley has been efficient and productive coming off the bench for Miami this year. He’s averaging better than 10 points per game and is shooting an astounding 59% from the field. It looks as though the key to unlocking Michael’s potential might just be putting him on a team with so many star veterans that he can’t help but keep his head down and fall in line. It will be interesting to see how the Suns’ reserves defend Beasley and if they’ll attack him offensively. Despite his size and athleticism, Beasley has never been a stellar defender. Ultimately, it’s good to see that he has straightened himself out for the time being. Though with Michael, he’s only ever one off the court misstep away from returning to his old self.