A Miami Heat-Phoenix Suns Breakdown Preview

The Miami Heat will kick off the front-end of a back-to-back tonight against the Phoenix Suns, who are on the second night of a back-to-back, while both teams are pretty hot. The scorching Suns have won 9 of their last 10, and the Heat have won 6 of their last 7. The story-lines are pure, headlined by a familiar face, in Jae Crowder, getting a round 2 from when they faced each other a few weeks ago.

Crowder is coming off an individual hot night, scoring 26 points in the first half alone. After the game, he said, “I’m pissed cause I had more in the tank, but I’ll save that it for tomorrow night.” Will that actually happen? Well, I guess we will find out in a few hours.

Story-lines aside, it’s important to note some of the things that Miami can do to slow down this Suns team, which is pretty hard to do. As mentioned earlier, they faced each other in Miami a few weeks ago, and Phoenix got the best of them.

So, let’s take a look at some things that stood out from the last match-up between these two teams…

– Eliminate mismatches on DeAndre Ayton

This was my one key for the game when they faced each other the first time, and it occurred right out of the gate in the first 3 possessions of the game. Miami’s switching and blitzing scheme means Bam Adebayo finds himself out on the perimeter many possessions, leaving Duncan Robinson on an island with a big, interior presence.

This doesn’t mean Miami has to abort their scheme, but it does mean Adebayo has to be selective at times with it, instead of anticipating a switch before even getting screened. The reason for this against this Suns team is shown in this play. The obvious part about back-side rotations is that you trust Jimmy Butler to defend post players, since it’s something he’s oddly good at.

The issue is that this is a team of weapons, meaning Robinson being switched onto the savvy scorer, in Devin Booker, most likely isn’t the best decision. So, that left Robinson on Ayton, awaiting the double on the baseline from Kendrick Nunn. Although they got a stop on this possession, that won’t happen for long.

– Limit turnovers, limit transition offense

Limiting turnovers seems like a simple way to analyze things, since that should be a key every night, but it’s actually what comes next against this team. The Suns are obviously a very good offensive team, but giving them easy points in the first half last match-up allowed them to pull away early.

The Heat haven’t been turning the ball over as much lately, which is a key element against this team. Now, Goran Dragic definitely hasn’t been playing to his peak abilities as of late, but this may be the revival game for him. They truly missed him against this Suns team, since Gabe Vincent running most of the team’s sets off the bench didn’t cause the best flow.

This will also allow Tyler Herro to play much more freely this time around, due to the fact he thrives as an off the ball scorer without point guard duties. As seen in this clip, Herro was the point guard in many of the lineups, which refers back to the undercover impact of Dragic. If shots begin to drop for him tonight, I believe the Heat have a good chance of coming out with a win.

– Devin Booker: A Butler/Ariza problem

Devin Booker found himself with the Herro or Robinson match-up way too much the first time these two teams played, which is why that adjustment will be made from Coach Spoelstra.

When discussing the exact change that will be made, it’ll be centered around Butler and Ariza focusing in on that match-up all night. Trevor Ariza continues to thrive on smaller guys night to night, which could mean he sees the Booker match-up immediately. When I asked Jimmy Butler about Ariza guarding smaller guys, he said, “How smart he is, knowing what plays are being ran. Always being in the right spot, staying down on shot fakes. It’s the things that people don’t see that he does extremely well.”

Since the Suns are a pretty versatile team as well, this means we may see Butler take the Crowder defensive match-up as Ariza locks in on Booker. This eliminates some of their usual abilities to hunt mismatches, since the Ayton-Crowder screeners will be guarded by Adebayo and Butler respectively. The scheme doesn’t have to be changed depending on the team they’re playing, but match-ups do.

– The importance of Butler-Paul match-up

The reason Butler and Chris Paul are so crucial in this game, is not due to individual match-ups, but instead who controls the pace more. Both guys are well known for their abilities to control a game, and Paul won that battle pretty easily the first time around.


Butler really took his time getting going, which meant the reliance on role players during a period of tough shooting wasn’t really the answer. It’s not always great to lean on Butler heavily on the first night of a back-to-back, but they’re going to need him tonight if they want to get a win.

Miami’s slow starts at times cannot happen against this team, since although they were able to overcome a horrific first quarter against Portland on Sunday night, the Suns will take advantage of it immediately. There’s a better chance of Miami throwing the first punch since the Suns were playing a game less than 24 hours ago, but Buter will have to be the guy to control the pace early on.

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– Is Achiuwa the answer or will it be a Dedmon debut?

Precious Achiuwa has gotten the nod as the back-up big lately, and he actually played a pretty decent game on both ends of the floor two nights ago. The issue is the consistency questions that come with him, since there’s always some doubt about his offensive effectiveness night to night. He actually played a good game against this Suns team, and may be used again due to an interior presence matching up better than a stretch big like Nemanja Bjelica.

But when looking for a big body to throw at this team in the non-Adebayo minutes, could we see the debut of Dewayne Dedmon? I wouldn’t be shocked, and it could be an instinctive decision by Coach Spo depending on the way that this game goes. Back-to-backs seem to be the time to give Dedmon a trial run, which is why I’m expecting it to possibly happen either tonight or tomorrow night.

Anyway, this could be a huge momentum game for this Heat team, since starting off the road trip 2-0 will be a huge relief for their spot in the standings.

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