What: Phoenix Suns (30-8) vs Miami Heat (24-15)
When: 7:00 p.m. AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns will host the Miami Heat looking to keep the best record in the league and extend their win streak to 4. This will be their last one at home before a 5-game road trip that will take them northeast and then to Texas.
The Suns are expected to have most of the players that were out due to COVID back. Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee and Jae Crowder had already cleared protocols before the last win against the Clippers, but the team decided to keep them sidelined for reconditioning. This will not be the case tonight, as the three of them are listed as available. Shamet is the only one still out on H/S protocols.
On the other hand, the Heat come into town significantly shorthanded. They count 12 players on their injury list, including Bam Adebayo, Markieff Moris (both out) and Jimmy Butler (questionable). The Heat are 2-2 into their 6 game road trip and have just come from a hot headed win against Portland, where the emotions were flying high. Kyle Lowry was ejected in the first half and Tyler Herro almost went to blows with Nurkic, causing both to be ejected.
Projected Starting Lineups:
- Chris Paul
- Devin Booker
- Mikal Bridges
- Cam Johnson
- Deandre Ayton
- Kyle Lowry
- Max Strus
- Caleb Martin
- PJ Tucker
- Omer Yurtseven
Landry Shamet (out), Dario Saric (out), Frank Kaminsky (out), Abdel Nader (out)
Jimmy Butler (questionable - ankle), Bam Adebayo (out), Victor Oladipo (our), Dewayne Dedmon (out), Udonis Haslem (out), Gabe Vincent (out), Marcus Garret (out), Markieff Morris (out), KZ Okpala (out), Mario Chalmers (out), Nik Stauskas (out).
It will be interesting to note how Monty Williams will approach his rotation tonight, especially the big man rotation, after the productivity both Jalen Smith and Bismack Biyombo in the last few games. The coach has already said he will look to find Jalen some minutes, however, they may come at the four, where he has been less than productive in the past.
It will also be important to note if Monty will keep Cam Johnson, who has been nothing short of superb, in the starting line-up, now that Jae Crowder is available. I personally side with keeping Cam on the starting line-up and try to bring Crowder off the bench once again.
Additionally, be on the look out for Devin Booker. After an 11 point, 5-for-22 performance against the Clippers, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will be looking for a bounce back game and we can expect a lot of aggression. Mikal also needs to keep being aggressive. After 23 points on 13 shot attempts in the win against the Pelicans, he had only 8 points against the Clippers, but still took 12 shots.
Despite no longer facing a COVID outbreak, the Miami Heat are still severely shorthanded as they come into the Valley later tonight. When Kyle Lowry got ejected in the first half against Portland on Wednesday, that left the Heat with only 9 available players. After Herro was thrown out, they had only 8. This has been the tale for some games now, as they deal with injuries and issues throughout the roster.
With the absence of Bam Adebayo - out for several weeks after a thumb surgery in early December -, Markieff Morris - out with a back injury ever since his confrontation with MVP Nikola Jokic - and the questionable status of Jimmy Butler - who has missed the last few games with an ankle injury - one would expect their position in the standings to take a major hit.
However, they have been able to keep the fourth seed in the East, ahead of Philadelphia, winning 7 of their last 10. Not only Kyle Lowry’s play has been helping them survive, they keep getting important contributions from Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and PJ Tucker. Cap that with impressive play from players such as Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Omer Yurtseven, and you could be looking at one of the deeper teams in the NBA, if everyone was healthy.
So don’t be fooled, Suns. The Heat might have almost a full roster on the injury list, but they come to the Valley to play, and I expect a fun game
The Suns win this one 118 to 107