The Heat (4-6) will be playing their fourth game of a six-game road trip when they face the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday night. Miami held the potent Golden State offense in check last time out by allowing just 96 points but could only score 80 of their own. Goran Dragic leads the Heat in scoring with an average of 19.3 points per game, while Hassan Whiteside is the leading rebounder at 12.4 per game. Yet Whiteside’s attitude has come into question after he was benched in the second half against the Warriors for a defensive laps and arguing with officials.
The Suns (4-7) are coming of a 98-92 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets but the big news is the trade of Eric Bledsoe. The disgruntled guard was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks for center Greg Monroe and protected first and second round picks. Monroe has played just five games this season with the last on October 26, due to a calf strain. It is not yet certain when he will join the Suns. In the meantime, Devin Booker is the leading scorer for Phoenix with an average of 21.6 points per game, while Tyson Chandler leads the team in rebounding with 9.3 boards per game.
Three keys to the game
Whiteside’s attitude – Whiteside is considered by some the best center in the NBA. He is averaging 15.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game but was benched on Sunday by coach Erik Spoelstra. At the time of his benching Whiteside was 1-for-9 from the field. His attitude needs to improve otherwise it could cause turmoil in the team.
Booker’s scoring – Phoenix have one of the NBA’s best young shooting guards in Booker. On Monday, with 18 points against the Nets, Booker reached 3,000 career points to become the fourth-youngest to that milestone behind only LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Miami must keep Booker’s scoring in check.
Suns’ defense – Phoenix are allowing 114.8 points per game, which ranks 29th in the league. Miami’s offensive output is poor at 101.2 per game, or 26th in the league, but that could change if the Suns continue to play poor defense.
Matchup to watch
Goran Dragic vs Mike James – Dragic is leading the Heat in scoring and assists and will look to penetrate on James to find Whiteside, Okaro White and Justise Winslow down low, or skip a pass out top to Josh Richardson. James is now first on the Suns in steals and will look to keep Dragic’s penetration to a minimum while not allowing the Heat guard to loft 3-pointers.
Heat projected starting lineup
PG – Goran Dragic | SG – Josh Richardson | SF – Justise Winslow | PF – Okaro White | C – Hassan Whiteside
Suns projected starting lineup
PG – Mike James | SG – Devin Booker | SF – T. J. Warren | PF – Marquese Chriss | C – Tyson Chandler
T. J. Warren is averaging 17.9 points per game on the season, but in his last five games has scored 20, 40, 6, 17 and 20. The only hiccup was the 6 points that came against the Knicks on Friday, a game in which he played just 10 minutes due to a head injury suffered in the previous encounter against the Wizards.
Miami are 5.5-point favorites on the road playing their fourth game of a season-long, six-game road trip. Whiteside was benched for lack of effort and no one is sure how he will react when he returns. The 5.5 points Phoenix are getting as home underdogs looks good here.
Phoenix will take advantage of the weary road legs of the Heat and the slight turmoil regarding Whiteside’s lack of effort. Suns will cover and win outright, 102-99.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Sun. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm ET at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
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