Know this: the Suns have a target on their back. The Sunderella Suns are bursting the bubble with their play and teams are beginning to notice.
What does it take to hit a bullseye on one’s back? Sharpshooters.
The Miami Heat (43-26) enter the Saturday afternoon game against the Phoenix Suns (30-39) with plenty of young and talented firepower. Adebayo. Nunn. Herro. ‘Airplane Mode’ Jones. Although we aren’t sure if Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic are going to suit up and play, this is a team of deadly assassins.
The Suns JAM Session Podcast recently spoke with Brandon Di Perno, senior editor for the SB Nation Hot Hot Hoops site, in an attempt to garner knowledge of a team that stands in the way of the Suns and 5-0.
Would he reveal how to beat the Heat?
As a Heat fan, how are you viewing these games?
“I think this is an opportunity for ‘Spo [Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra] to play with different lineups and start experimenting with his rotation,” Brandon said, adding, “Sometimes [the rotations] make sense and sometimes, as a fan, they don’t make a lot of sense.”
The Heat have posted a 2-2 record in Orlando. Part of that is due to the recent two game absence of star Jimmy Butler (ankle), and part of that is due to the tinkering with lineups that Brandon is referencing. And part of that is Giannis dropped 33 and 12 on them Thursday afternoon.
“Things have switched up a lot. Meyers Leonard is out of the rotation after starting most of the year,” Di Perno informed. “You’re seeing more minutes for Kelly Olynyk who is playing out of his mind in the bubble.”
The hustling Olynyk has been playing well in the Bubble. In 32.4 minutes-per-game, he has averaged 15 points-per-game and 5.3 rebounds.
Perhaps they’ll experiment so much that there is no continuity and it will open a door to a Suns victory? “Even if they’re out there playing with new rotations and lineups, they’re out there to play and win.”
“The Heat are always going to be competitive. It’s a team that doesn’t tank.”
Who is the one member of the Heat we should keep our eyes on not named Adebayo, Butler, or Dragic?
Brandon excitingly responded with, “You gotta watch out for the second-best three-point shooter in the league, Duncan Robinson.” Noted. When the Heat lasted played the Suns in November (Miami 124, Phoenix 104), Robinson scored a mere 6 points. Yet he led all players with a +29.
“This is a guy who, in the last 10 games before the season paused, was averaging 5 threes a game. He doesn’t miss.”
Robinson is lethal from deep. Per BBall-Index.com, Duncan shoots:
- 39.2% on pull up three’s (82%tile, A grading)
- 50.4% on corner three’s (90%tile, A grading)
- 45.7% on catch and shoot three’s (93%tile, A- grading)
- 42.9% on above the break three’s (92%tile, A grading)
He does all of this with a -2.32 ‘openness rating’ (openness rating estimates the degree to which a player is open on their 3-point attempts).
“I think teams are finally start to figure that out,” Brandon said. “They way that the Raptors defended him on Monday was as if he was Steph Curry.”
What are Miami’s strengths & weaknesses?
Brandon noted that, “They share the ball. They'll pass the ball three times before they find an open shooter. If they’re sharing the ball, they’re a really, really good team.”
Miami is currently 5th in the NBA in assists-per-game with 25.8 on 43.4 FGM. The Suns will need to syaty home on the perimeter, not collapsing on the likes of Bam Adebayo, in an effort to ensure the Miami sharpshooters aren’t haring wide open looks at the rim.
As for weaknesses, Di Perno pointed out that, “Miami’s defense is not where it should be. They play a lot of 2-3 zone. If they Heat are playing a 2-3 zone, they leave the other team open to shoot threes all day. That gets us in a ton of trouble.”
Brandon continued to explain how Spoelstra has deployed the zone defense thus far, “Spo has been alternating out of the 2-3 zone a little bit. Against the Celtics they played man for the first half and before that they hadn’t used the 2-3 in the bubble at all.
“The 2-3 zone against the Suns,” he worried, “where you have Devin Booker, who can shoot the lights out, probably isn’t the best move.”
The defense as a unit “should be better,” he stated. “We have literal defensive All-Stars on our team in Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo. Jae Crowder also is also a great defender. See them giving up a lot of points is kind of a bummer. “
How do Heat fans see the Suns?
It is always interested to see how other fan bases view the Phoenix Suns. Di Perno said that, “going into the bubble, you guys were viewed as an after thought. A team that has some pieces but wouldn’t be able to get anything done. Props to you guys for proving everybody wrong.”
The Suns, who enter Saturday’s game against Miami with a 4-0, are starting to garner national respect with their bubble-busting performances.
“I would love to see a play-in between Portland and the Suns.”
Brandon, who noted that he has some friends who are Suns fans, had this observation of the franchise’s history: “I look at Suns fans and you are tortured for no good reason. Every time something looks good and it looks like it’s going to be a good season, something bites you in the ass.”
He ain’t wrong, is he?
Who wins on Saturday?
“Depends who we get back from injury. Say the Heat get Jimmy and Goran back before Saturday’s game and everybody plays their usual amount of minutes, I say the Miami Heat win. I’m not going to go on a Phoenix Suns podcast and not say that.”
We responded with, “We’ve heard that four podcasts in a row.”
“All I want is a good game,” he added. “If it goes down to the wire, I’d love it. Prime time, baby. If this game goes the way I think it’s going to go, it’ll be within 5 points.”
Thank you Brandon DiPerno for joining the pod. Always a pleasure to hear the point of view of an opposing fan base.
“As the former home to our Miami Heat All-Star from of couple years ago, Goran Dragic, we wish you guys nothing but the best,” Brandon jokingly stated. “Except on Saturday.”
For the entire interview, here is the podcast: