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Joe B.

Phoenix Suns at Miami HEAT Game Thread and Preview

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Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Suns 99-90 in their last meeting on January 3. 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 did you take away from Miami’s loss to Portland on Sunday?

Couper Moorhead: That Damian Lillard is incredible, mostly. Watching Lillard expertly navigate the pick-and-roll, pulling up for effortless split-second threes and then threading passes to a rolling Jusuf Nurkic when Miami attempted to pressure higher on the floor was reminiscent of Steph Curry last season. Of course we can’t make that comparison if the shots aren’t falling as well and Lillard delivered with 9-of-12 from three and 49 points on 21 shots. In short, it was as good an offensive performance as you’ll see all year and a surprisingly energetic defensive one as well, especially considering Portland was on a back-to-back.

On Miami’s side, their defense wasn’t quite as active as it had been lately and a number of players being in foul trouble didn’t help, but in the bigger picture it was clear there might be a bit of an adjustment period to playing without Dion Waiters. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Joe Beguiristain: While the HEAT played well offensively for the most part, their defense wasn’t quite up to par. In particular, Damian Lillard had one heck of a performance, as he nearly tallied a career high and finished with 49 points on 14-of-21 shooting. Although the HEAT could have done a better job of defending him in the pick-and-roll, Lillard was in such a zone that it might not have made a difference.

That said, Miami understands that it needs to get back to its identity and lock-in on the defensive end. From Erik Spoelstra to James Johnson, that message was echoed often after practice on Monday. With Phoenix struggling mightily on the offensive end as of late (especially with a bunch of key contributors out of the lineup), expect the HEAT to apply a lot of pressure from the get-go.  

2: What changes have there been to the Suns roster lately?

Couper: There’s been quite a few. Eric Bledsoe has been shut down for the rest of the season, as has Tyson Chandler. Brandon Knight has been experiencing back spasms and, as of now, doesn’t appear to be expected to play. Dragan Bender had ankle surgery in early February and has yet to return. And Devin Booker has also had an ankle injury and its unclear if he’ll be able to play Tuesday night. However you slice it, this isn’t going to be the same Phoenix team that beat Miami back in early January.

Joe: Coup pretty much hit the nail on the head. The Suns have a multitude of guys either shut down for the season or nursing injuries. As such, Head Coach Earl Watson rolled with a starting unit of Tyler Ulis, Derrick Jones, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss and Alen Len in Phoenix’s last game against the Pistons on March 19.

Of those players, Warren and Chriss have been mainstays in the starting lineup for most of the year. Not to mention, they’ve also stepped up in the absence of a lot of the Suns’ playmakers. In fact, Warren is averaging 17.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game on 58.3 percent shooting since the All-Star Break. Chriss meanwhile, is posting 12.0 points, 5.3 boards and 1.8 blocks per contest on 52.2 percent shooting over that same timespan. 

3: Are there any further adjustments you expect Miami to make with Dion Waiters out?

Couper: Miami still managed to post 110.9 points per 100 possessions against Portland, but there clearly wasn’t as much of a rhythm or flow to the execution as there had been for most of the past two months. Just 43 percent of the HEAT’s baskets were assisted as whenever Goran Dragic was off the floor the offense often became James Johnson attacking from the perimeter and bullying his way to the rim. Johnson did that quite well, shooting 9-of-13, but it’s also the type of offense that becomes easier to defend the more often it’s used and more predictable it becomes. Not only did Miami miss Waiters’ dribble-penetration, spray passing and ability to space the floor off the ball, but he also gives Erik Spoelstra a playmaking option to stagger with Dragic so that, along with Miami’s bench, there are always multiple ballhandlers on the floor. Moving forward, we may see Spoelstra experiment a bit with the rotation to try and keep the ball moving. Or, as is often the case, Miami will simply have to be better on that end and work harder to adhere to their habits without one of the players who makes things work.

Joe: In addition to getting back to their defensive principles, I expect the HEAT to try and get the ball moving a bit more on offense. After dishing out 29 assists in an offensive explosion against Minnesota, Miami had just 18 against Portland. Keep in mind that when the HEAT tally at least 26 assists, they’re 7-3 this season.

You know Goran Dragić and James Johnson are going to attack the paint and collapse the defense, but Miami’s other wings also have to do their part and help set up their teammates too. Luckily enough, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson have had their moments over the past few weeks. T. Johnson tallied a career-high nine assists against the Pelicans on March 15, while Richardson has gradually improved since his return to the lineup from a foot injury. We’ll see if both guards can create a little bit more off the dribble to make up for the absence of Dion Waiters. 

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Highlights:

January 3-HEAT at Suns

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won two of three and are 34-36.
  • The Suns have dropped four straight and enter the contest at 22-48.
  • Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (20.3) and assists (6.0) per game.
  • Alex Len leads Phoenix with 1.2 blocks per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 105.1 (16)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.3 (6)
  • Suns Offense: 103.8 (23)
  • Suns Defense: 108.8 (26)

 

 

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The Heat is in a great place folks 🔥 We have fought our way back into contention and now the ball is in our court. Lets NOT forget just how far we have come. All we need to do is take care of business tonight vs the Suns and then Thursday at home vs the Raptors - that's 2 home games where we need to play more to our defensive identity. Two wins will give us confidence going into Sundays game on the road vs the Celtics. If we get back to playing to our defensive identity for 4 quarters, share the basketball and play with a sense of urgency starting tonight the 6th seed is certainly within reach for the Heat 🔥🔥🔥🔥

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3 hours ago, CalHEATFan said:

The Heat is in a great place folks 🔥 We have fought our way back into contention and now the ball is in our court. Lets NOT forget just how far we have come. All we need to do is take care of business tonight vs the Suns and then Thursday at home vs the Raptors - that's 2 home games where we need to play more to our defensive identity. Two wins will give us confidence going into Sundays game on the road vs the Celtics. If we get back to playing to our defensive identity for 4 quarters, share the basketball and play with a sense of urgency starting tonight the 6th seed is certainly within reach for the Heat 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Image result for well said gif

 

Nobody thought we'd run the table to the playoffs.  There were bound to be a bump or two along the way.  This team's resilience is a major reason why they've been so successful.  They've learned how to correct their mistakes and bounce back quicker.  I expect to see a very locked in version of our team tonight.  The Suns have this team's full attention tonight.  If we lock down defensively we will win this game by a large margin.

TAKE NO PRISONERS!

LET'S GO HEAT!

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12 minutes ago, Majestic said:

 

 

 

 

 

If he plays, I want to see JRich shut him down.

If not shut down, then at least make life really difficult for him.  Need to keep him under 20 tonight.

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Teams have started to figure it out. Involve Whiteside in the pick and roll = open jumpers for days.

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