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Preview: Suns go for 5-0 vs. dangerous Heat squad

The Suns look to continue their magical Orlando run on Saturday against a team of sharpshooters and Bam Adebayo.

NBA: Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Miami Heat (43-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (30-39)

When: 4:30 p.m. AZ time / Pacific time

Where: Orlando Bubble

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM or ESPN 620 AM


Projected Starters

Suns: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Deandre Ayton

Heat: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk


Phoenix Suns

Phoenix continues to heads in Orlando. The teams won it’s 4th consecutive game for the first time since December of 2018 on Thursday, downing the Indiana Pacers 114-99. The win pushed their win

“With the stakes this high its really good to play this well,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said after the victory. “We just want to keep improving.”

The Suns have leap-frogged the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs to take sole possession on the #10 seed. Things need to go right in order for them to move into the #9 seed and earn the opportunity for the play-in game, but it is clear now anything is possible.

“I just think they want it,” Williams added. “When you're young you probably don’t pay much attention to the stakes. I think they’re growing up. You have to be in these situations, you have to be in these moments. They’re growing up on the fly. They’re a part of the scouting report for other teams now and they’re responding.”

Miami Heat

Miami enters Saturday matchup with a 2-2 record in the Bubble. The team defeated the Denver Nuggets in their first first game, lost to Toronto in their second, downed Boston in their third, and lost to the Bucks on Thursday. They are currently holding the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting one game above Indiana for the spot and 2.5 games behind the Celtics for #3.

Jimmy Butler will not play on Saturday against the Suns, while Goran Dragic is questionable.

Goran Dragic (day-to-day) sprained his left ankle in the final moments in Tuesday’s victory over Boston and did not play against Milwaukee. If instinct were to guide me, I would assume Goran would put on a jersey and take a shot at his former team.

Starting PG Kendrick Nunn will also will the game as he had left the Orlando Bubble to attend to business that is not COVID related.

Rookie G Tyler Herro may get the thumbs up to join the starting squad.

The Heat can beat you in numerous ways. They are #1 in the NBA in 3PT% at 38.2% on the 10th most 3PA’s per game. Second year guard Duncan Robinson is 4th in the NBA with a 44.8% clip from beyond the arc. Their free throw attempt rate (number of free throws per field goal attempt) is #1 as well. Their offensive rating of 112.8 is 5th in the league. In short? This team can score and do so in bunches.

Miami is 29th in the league in rebounding, however, which provides interior opportunity. If Bam Adebayo can be neutralized (he accounts for 23.6% of their boards) and the Suns stay home on the perimeter, a path to victory exists.

Key Matchup

It’s gotta be Bam Adebayo vs. whoever is tasked with stopping him. The Heat use him at power forward 58% of the time (vs. 99% in ’18-’19 and 100% in ’17-’18). This has unlocked his ability and skillset to an elite level. My assumption is Cam Johnson will draw the majority of the assignment, as he has a stronger frame that will be capable-ish of attempting to deny the force that is Adebayo. Deandre Ayton’s help defense will be key as well.

Bam has blossomed into an All-Star for the Miami Heat franchise. Chosen with the 14th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the 6’9” power forward has continued to astonished fans with his athleticism and drive. He earned a spot on the All-Star team this season due to his efforts, and currently has a 16.1 ppg/104 rpg/5.1 apg stat line.

If you have 20 minutes, his highlights from this season are must-see-TV:

Is it me or does he remind you of a young Amare Stoudemire? It’s un-fuggin-canny. When his eyes lock on the rim, there is no stopping him from getting to it. He’ll get there, even if it means going through you. Imagine if you channeled his aggressiveness into the body of Deandre Ayton?

The BBall Index advanced stats love him as well. The site bestows ‘badges’ for performance based on their advanced metrics. Kinda like NBA2k. Adebayo has:

  • Bronze - Pickpocket
  • Silver - Playmaking Wiz and Nuclear Upside
  • Gold - Box Out Guru and Consistent Performer

When you delve further into his statistics, you can see why he is a defensive issue. Although his perimeter shooting is non-existent, his interior offense (as you can see in the highlight reel above) is ridiculous.

Per BBall Index, his movement points per 75 possessions is 5.1. Defined, that is points coming from off-screens and cut scoring chances. Bam receives an ‘A’ grading in this area and puts him at the 97%tile in the league.

Adebayo will be the primary offensive force on Saturday, especially if Jimmy Butler isn’t playing. He receives 66.5 touches-per-game, which places him in the 92%tile in the league.

I love this guy. I’ll stop talking about him now.

Prediction

The Heat can burn you (pun indirectly intended). Their ability from beyond the arc will be a challenge, but with the length of Mikal Bridges and the peskiness of our guard play, I believe this can be neutralized. Factor in that Jimmy Buckets isn’t expected to play and Goran Dragic won’t have a chance at revenge, and I like our odds in this one.

Optimistic John remains positive:

Suns 114, Heat 108