Earlier in the season, when the Miami Heat were playing at a high level and the Phoenix Suns were still trying to figure it out, the lost their most lopsided game of the season. That loss dropped them to 1-3 on the season, but seemed to spark resurgence as the Suns then went 3-1 to get back to .500 on the season.
Tonight the team is in a tailspin and could use signs of resurgence.
In the last meeting the team surrendered 15 made threes to the Heat as the bench stepped up and connected on 8 themselves. Those deep balls freed up the lane for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to attack the rim as duel threat offensive weapons. "You have to pick your poison with them," said Coach Gentry before the game.
That poison is less potent with the subtraction of Wade, but could be a different brand of lethal bane. Those shooters are now going to have more time to gain their rhythm from behind the arc. They still have James creating offense attacking the rim against the suspect Suns dribble penetration containment.
James took a much worse team than this to the Finals so the loss of Wade is bigger for headlines than basketball.
The key for the Suns is defending the three-point line and containing James to the best of their ability. He is playing ill so they have a very minor advantage, but that is still no easy task. This is a game where there could be major minutes for the bench, especially P.J. Tucker, to try and contain the reigning MVP.
PG - Goran Dragic v. Mario Chalmers (AKA The Sexiest Man Alive... From Alaska)
SG - Jared Dudley v. Mike Miller
SF - Michael Beasley v. LeBron James
PF - Luis Scola v. Shane Battier
C - Marcin Gortat v. Chris Bosh
Suns In-actives: Diante Garrett (coaches decision)
Heat In-actives: Dwyane Wade (foot) and Dexter Pittman (right quad strain)
Eric Spolestra on facing teams a second time:
"They will have the comfort of playing at home and you know we have been on the road for a week. Other than that both teams are familiar with each other. We are trying to play as consistently to our identity as we can, something we haven't done as well as we can on this road trip. When you play on the road it doesn't matter who, you have to expect a lot of ups and downs, you have to stay the course and weather all the storms. That is what we are looking forward to tonight."
Spolestra on Udonis Haslem potentially breaking Alonzo Mourning's franchise rebounding record (he is 7 away entering tonight):
"If you want to talk about the core values of the Miami Heat are, we can list them for you, or we can show you a picture of Udonis Haslem. He embodies all of the characteristics of a Miami Heat player and what we want in a player, the leadership, the toughness, the durability, and the consistency. To see a player that was quote unquote undersized that might have been the reason he was undrafted to be able to have the success he has had in the paint -- that speaks to his heart."
Interesting Stat: 25
Last time these two met (in Miami) the Heat routed the Suns in a laugher 124-99 (25 points) earlier in the season. This meeting will be minus Dwyane Wade, but the Heat are still the Heat.