When: Tuesday, March 21st, 2017, 4:30 local time (7:30 EST)
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
Watch/Listen: TV: Fox Sports Arizona Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns (22-48) and Miami Heat (34-36) actually played a game earlier in this calendar year, but based on the litany of moves made by the Suns since then it almost seems like eons ago.
On January 3rd the Suns bested the Heat 99-90 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in a game where Tyson Chandler and Eric Bledsoe started, while P.J. Tucker and Dragan Bender made meaningful contributions off the bench.
The Suns used a big third quarter (27-14) to pull away and the Heat never threatened down the stretch. Devin Booker led all players with 27 points, while Chandler pulled down 20 rebounds and Marquese Chriss chipped in 18 points.
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 24 points and nine assists, but a depleted team playing without Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Justise Winslow just couldn’t compete in the second half.
While Adam Silver just sent out a league memo addressing the issue of teams resting their star players, the Suns haven’t gotten quite as much Heat for going full 76er as they head down the home stretch.
“Management decisions” to shut down the best players on the roster really isn’t all that different than when Jake LaMotta took a dive for the mob. It’s not actually the players that are losing on purpose in this affront to the competitive process, but the “team” is absolutely making a concerted effort to lose.
That being said, I don’t really have a problem with it.
The Suns shouldn’t expect me to come out and support them while they’re intentionally putting a bad product on the floor, but meaningless wins now stand to hurt the quality of the product on the floor for years to come. Losing now is part of building towards the future and as long as the rules exist as they do now teams need to work the system.
Luckily, this afternoon’s game is on the road, so local fans don’t have to worry about experiencing the D-League All-Star experience live. If Phoenicians want to watch 19 and 20 year old kids play competitive and entertaining basketball the Final Four will come to town on March 31st.
But I digress...
To get a good grip on where the Suns stand in their purging process all one has to do is take a look at this injury report on BasketballReference.com. It’s actually kind of hilarious.
What all of this means is that the Suns only suited up eight players for their last game, a 112-95 loss to the Detroit Pistons, and one of those (Jarell Eddie) was playing in his first game as a Sun.
Tyler “The Little Engine That Could” Ulis scored 17 points and added 11 assists for the Suns, but was put in the impossible situation of trying to do everything and shot just 7-24 from the field. Tyler is now averaging 16.3 points and 10.7 assists per game since he took over as the starting point guard.
Alan Williams recorded his 8th double double in ten games with 11 points and 12 rebounds and Jarell Eddie scored 13 in his Suns debut.
I’m guessing tonight’s lineup will also be shorthanded, but hopefully at least eight players made it onto the team plane.
While the Suns are nosediving, the Heat have been clawing and scraping to overcome a barrage of injuries that has besieged their season. Unlike the Suns, Miami has no incentive to lose... since they already owe the Suns a pair of future first round draft picks.
Miami started off the season 11-30, but have gone 23-6 since that point. Their .793 winning percentage over that stretch is the best in the NBA.
Unfortunately, Miami’s actually legitimate injury report took a turn for the worse when Dion Waiters went down with a sprained ankle that is jeopardizing his chances at returning this season.
Miami lost the first game Waiters missed 115-104 to the Portland Trail Blazers and are now tied with the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Dragic leads the Heat in scoring (20.3) and assists (6.0) per game, while Whiteside is first overall in the NBA with 14.2 rebounds per game.
Role players Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Rodney McGruder have been a stabilizing force for the Heat this season amidst the sea of injuries. If you aren’t a rabid NBA fan you might not know much about these guys but will have a chance to see them in action tonight.
What To Watch For:
Waiters return from missing 20 games closely coincided to Miami’s midseason resurgence. After a loss in his first full game out, are the Heat now at risk of missing the playoffs?
Fan favorite Goran Dragic is having a season that closely resembles his third team All-NBA selection with the Suns. Even though he’s wearing the wrong jersey it’s always fun to watch Goran play. If the Heat finish strong and make the playoffs it’s because he put them on his back and carried them there.
Will Leandro Barbosa or Ronnie Price suit up? Will Tyler Ulis play 48 minutes?
The only thing we know for certain about the players on the court tonight is that Alan Williams will once again outperform Alex Len.
And we know that “management” will be rooting for a Suns loss.