The Miami Heat (26-32) host the Phoenix Suns (11-50) tonight at the AmericanAirlines Arena, and having gone 0-2 since the All-Star break, a game against the NBA’s worst team could be just what they are in need of.
After two very different kinds of losses against Philadelphia and Detroit, the line between making this year’s playoffs or taking an earlier than scheduled summer break is getting very thin. The Heat are currently 1.5 wins behind the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot, and tonight they face a Suns team who are sitting on their worst losing streak in franchise history.
Phoenix hasn’t won a game since they beat the Denver Nuggets 102-93 on January 13, and despite some close calls over the last month, it’s pretty clear that they are destined for the lottery draft once again (well a franchise record 17 straight defeat indeed indicates that anyway).
The season stories may well be very different for the Heat and Suns, but there is something that connects the two teams. Former Heat guard Tyler Johnson is set to return to Miami for the first time since his trade to Phoenix at the trade deadline. Johnson made 257 appearances for the Heat averaging 11 points per game, and since the trade has played five games for the Suns and has averaged 10.2 points, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals.
If the Suns are to trouble, the Heat then look no further than the Devin Booker, who is easily the team’s best player. Booker has averages of 24.7, 6.7 and four. The other option the Suns can turn to is their 2018 first overall draft pick - Deandre Ayton, the twenty-year-old is having a season which is seeing him mentioned in the Rookie of the Year race, despite his team’s struggles. Ayton has helped himself to thirty-one double-double on the season and is averaging 16.4 and 10.5.
Tonight’s game will see the Heat face the Suns for the second and last time this year; the first match-up was in Phoenix back on December 12. Miami won that game 115-98, largely thanks to Bam Adebayo’s 22 and ten night while Justise Winslow also had a game in which he put up 20, 8 and 6.
This is a must not lose situation for the Heat and given the team has already beaten Phoenix this season, another win here will be a big step in the right direction.
Heat: Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside
Suns: Tyler Johnson, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton
Heat: James Johnson (Slight Left AC Sprain) - Doubtful, Rodney McGruder (Bruised Right Knee) - Doubtful, Justise Winslow (Left Knee Soreness) - Doubtful
Suns: T.J. Warren (Right Ankle Soreness) - Out
TV: Fox Sports Sun (Eric Reid, John Crotty, Jason Jackson)
Radio: The Ticket 790AM & The HEAT Radio Network (Mike Inglis)
Spanish Radio: WAQI 710AM & The HEAT Spanish Radio Network (José Pañeda)