The beast of the East meets the king of the West this Thursday, as the Miami Heat take on the Phoenix Suns in what could stand as a preview of the 2022 NBA Finals. Will the Heat take Phoenix down again? Or, will the Suns improve their league-best record at the expense of Miami?
Catch this game live on Thursday, March 10, at 8:30 AM, Manila time
Away: Phoenix Suns (52-13/24-6 on the road)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Cameron Payne
- SG: Landry Shamet
- SF: Mikal Bridges
- PF: Jae Crowder
- C: Deandre Ayton
Without Chris Paul and sans Devin Booker, the Suns still found a way to score a win because that’s just how optimal things are in Phoenix. Plus, they still have Deandre Ayton, who led the team to a 102-99 road win over the Orlando Magic Wednesday. Ayton beasted his way to a double-double of 21 points and 19 rebounds versus the Magic, while the backcourt duo of Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne stepped up in the absence of CP3 and Booker with 21 and 18 points, respectively.
Payne also had 12 assists. Paul won’t be playing anytime soon, but Booker (health and safety protocols) might have a shot at suiting up this Thursday, as he’s reportedly joining the Suns in Miami. Meanwhile, Cameron Johnson’s (quad) availability is also uncertain. The key for the Suns is to keep hitting their shots from deep to open things up for Ayton. The Suns went 13/36 from deep against Orlando and hit 14 threes in the first meeting this season with Miami, albeit in a 123-100 loss in January. Still, the Suns have to establish their outside shooting early, which they don’t normally do (26th in 3FGMA), but with a different set of starters that includes Shamet, a rise in 3-point attempts is to be expected of Phoenix.
Home: Miami Heat (44-22/23-7 at home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: Duncan Robinson
- SF: Jimmy Butler
- PF: PJ Tucker
- C: Bam Adebayo
Miami just keep on winning. The Heat are on a three-game win streak after thumping the Houston Rockets at home Tuesday, 123-106. And that’s with Kyle Lowry being rusty after being away for four games. Lowry went 0/3 from the field and finished with zero points, but somehow led all Miami starters with a plus-16. Having warmed up again – and without CP3 to bother him – Lowry could get going this Thursday. He had 14 points and 13 assists with a plus-28 in the January meeting.
But Miami could be packing heat in its bench again, as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson had 60 of the team’s 65 non-starter points in the win over Phoenix. Plus, the Heat have another new weapon in the form of Victor Oladipo, who made his Miami debut in the Rockets game, scoring 11 points in 15 minutes. With Shamet and Payne getting borrowed by the Suns’ starting unit, Phoenix’s bullpen might not have the firepower to keep up with Miami’s bench. Miami’s defense doesn’t look conducive to Ayton, as the Heat are allowing just 40.4 points in the paint per game (No. 1 in the NBA).
Spread: The Suns can get away with a banged-up lineup against a team like Orlando, but they’ll have a hard time playing on the level of a healthy Miami squad. Taking the Heat to cover (-7.5).
Over/Under: It’s Miami’s pace that will dictate the game script here. Taking the Under (217.5).