Deep Miami Heat look for third win against Phoenix Suns

Mar 1, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Game preview for the Miami Heat vs the Phoenix Suns

Heat (34-26) vs Suns (15-49)
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena – Miami, FL
When: Thursday, March 3, 2016, 7:30 PM ET
Watch: FSAZ, SUN

As the Miami Heat come off of an exciting 129-111 win against the Chicago Bulls, during which they shot a best-in-Heat-history 67.5 percent from the field, they look for their third win in a row against the Phoenix Suns.

Miami, who currently sits fourth in the Eastern Conference (only half a game behind the Boston Celtics as of Wednesday afternoon) will go into this matchup with a 34-26 record. Compare this to Phoenix who is ranked fourteenth in the West with a record of 15-49 (coming off of a 126-92 loss against the Charlotte Hornets to boot) and well, this should be an easy win for the Heat. However, it is more than just numbers that the team has going for them.

Having recently signed veteran shooter Joe Johnson, Miami is now deeper than ever. In fact, Johnson passed Reggie Theus on the NBA’s career scoring list seven points into the game against Chicago: he now ranks No. 50. Big man Hassan Whiteside has also nicely come into his new role with the Heat, setting a franchise record six straight double-doubles as of Tuesday night. Combine the productivity of those two guys with the likes of Dwyane Wade playing like he is once again in his twenties, as well as rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson pitching in nicely…Miami is looking nice.

The last two times these teams met, the Heat took a 103-95 victory over the Suns, as Wade scored 27 points. Miami has swept the series for five years in a row, with five straight home wins. Their last loss to Phoenix was in November of 2009.

Matchup to Watch: Devin Booker vs. Dwyane Wade

Realistically, there probably will not be much of any matchup to watch in this game. But with both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight out with injuries, Ronnie Price and Devin Booker have had to step up. And the rookie has done quite well for himself so far this season.

Currently averaging 10.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game, Booker has gone overlooked by many due to the unfortunate circumstance of his team this year. While his averages may not seem all that impressive, he has absolutely had some standout performances. Take for instance, his 32 point, on 6-11 from beyond-the-arc, game against the Indiana Pacers. Or when he scored 24 versus the San Antonio Spurs, while also dishing out 5 assists.

Booker and Wade going head-to-head will certainly be fun to watch. While the rookie obviously has age on his side, Wade’s experience and superstar caliber of play are hard for just about anyone to outdo. Booker was able to finish their first meeting with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists, but was no match for Wade’s 27 points.

Right now Wade is averaging a whopping 23.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

X-Factor: Goran Dragic

Honestly, there are quite a handful of x-factors for the Heat right now. From Johnson to Whiteside to Luol Deng…anyone can light up at any time, propelling the team forward. However, because of Dragic’s past with the Suns and his inconsistency throughout this year, he will need to step it up.

Although Dragic has definitely been a strong player lately, including scoring 17 points, 4 rebounds and 11 assists against the Bulls on Tuesday night, many were worried about him in the beginning of the season. He did not grasp the bare bones of Miami Heat basketball, and flailed alongside Wade. But fortunately for Miami, this seems to be a thing of the past.

Currently, Goran is scoring an average of 12.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists. As long as he can move the ball well and get into an offensive rhythm, the Heat should have nothing to worry about.

Ronnie Price only scored 4 points against the team’s loss to the Hornets, despite playing 29 minutes. The 32-year-old, 10-year league veteran is averaging 3.7 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists a matchup.

Key Stats

Miami Heat offensive efficiency: 21st, 102 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive efficiency: 6th, 100.3 points allowed per 100 possessions

Phoenix Suns offensive efficiency: 28th, 99.4 points per 100 possessions
Phoenix Suns defensive efficiency: 29th, 107.8 points allowed per 100