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Game Preview: Suns and Heat meet for this first time the season

Phoenix looks to go back above .500 at home.

Phoenix Suns v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Who: Phoenix Suns (18-16) vs. Miami Heat (20-14)

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: 3TV and Arizona’s Family Sports

Listen: KMVP 98.7 FM


We have a quality matchup for you on Friday night, and those are words you’ll begin to hear more and more often for the Suns. Why? Because, per Tankathon, the Suns have the third-hardest remaining schedule in the NBA, with opponents combing for a .534 winning percentage. They will be playing top teams in the NBA nightly as they have yet to play the Bucks and Celtics, and still have games against the Nuggets, Wolves, and Sixers on their schedule.

On Friday night, it’s their first game against the Miami Heat, the team with the 4th-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Heat, who represented the Eastern Conference in the 2023 NBA Finals, will be without Jimmy Butler. He is tending to a foot injury.

That being said, the Heat are 6-4 without Butler this season. They come into town after beating the Los Angeles Lakers 110-96. What was impressive about that win? The Heat only played 8 players (if you don’t count the 39 seconds of garbage time at the end of the game). Those 8 players all scored in double digits.

Team basketball. It will be on displayed tonight.

Probable Starters

Injury Report

Suns:

  • Kevin Durant - QUESTIONABLE (Right Hamstring Strain)
  • Eric Gordon - QUESTIONABLE (Right Knee Soreness)
  • Nassir Little - QUESTIONABLE (Left Knee Soreness)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)

Heat:

  • Caleb Martin - DOUBTFUL (Ankle)
  • Dru Smith - OUT (Ankle)
  • Jimmy Butler - OUT (Foot)
  • Kaywood Mighsmith - OUT (Concussion Protocol)

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

For those who didn’t like the Clippers sniping the Suns from deep in their last game, you might want to look away for this one. The Heat hit 38.8% of their three-pointers, second-best in the Association. Duncan Robinson (43.4%), Kyle Lowry (43.4%), and Tyler Herro (42.9%) will burn Phoenix if they do not guard the perimeter.

Jamie Jaquez, Jr., the rookie from UCLA who was selected 18th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, has been surprising the NBA with his production this season. The November Rookie of the Month winner is averaging 13.8 points and has scored the third most points this season for Miami (behind Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler). Miami strikes again, eh?

Key to a Suns Win

Play like you did in the second half against the Clippers.

Los Angeles is a top-end defense in the NBA. And Phoenix scored at will. If the Suns can stay locked in, stay engaged, and avoid three-point swings from the Heat, they can win this one on their home floor.

Prediction

This game will have its momentum swings. Miami is a professional team and, under the guidance of Erik Spoelstra, knows how to stay focused throughout the highs and lows. Pop them in the face in the first? Prepare for a well-coached and turnover-free second from them. They hit you first? You better do the same.

I’m worried about turnover for Phoenix in this one. Like the Suns, Miami does not play with pace. This will be a slow half-court game with few points scored in transition...unless Phoenix turns it over. The Suns turns the ball over 14.9 times a game — 8th most in the league — and the Heat are a top-third-in-the-league team when it comes to steals with 7.7.

If the Suns take care of the ball, they win. And they will.

Suns 118, Heat 114

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