In the start of the second week of the NBA season, this Miami-Phoenix battle is a matchup between Eastern Conference favorites and a middle-of-the-road Western Conference team.
Miami comes into this one with a 2-1 record, their only loss at the hands of the New York Knicks. Phoenix has just one win against two losses, their only win coming against the terrible-looking Detroit Pistons.
Phoenix's defense is a Top 5 unit—allowing just 88 points per game—but their offense is stagnant at best, atrocious at worst. The Suns are putting up just 88.5 points per game on 42 percent shooting.
If there was one thing that looks like it could be the remedy to Miami's defensive woes, it's a visit from the Phoenix Suns. Miami's offense has clicked, averaging a league-best 107.7 points per game, but their defense is giving up a second-worst 109 points per game.
Time: Monday, November 5th, 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Phoenix Suns (1-2), Miami Heat (2-1)
Betting Line: Miami -12.5
Key Storyline: Miami's Defensive Deficiencies
While the Heat offense has created such a buzz that their defense is almost negligible, they've put together three rather uninspired defensive efforts so far this season.
The Heat haven't just been giving up a lot of points—they've been doing it while the basics of defense completely go out the window.
Their 36 rebounds per game is second-worst in the league, which is leading to them getting out-rebounded by more than six rebounds per game.
Defensively they've disappeared differently in every game. Against Denver they gave up 72 points in the paint, against New York they allowed the Knicks to score 57 points off three-pointers and against Boston they were killed in the mid-range game and had a hard time stopping Rajon Rondo in the fast break.
With so many different problems, it might just be early-season rust as opposed to actual problems.
Key Matchup: Marcin Gortat vs. Chris Bosh
An interesting facet of this matchup is going to be how Chris Bosh can deal with Marcin Gortat on both ends of the floor.
On Saturday against Denver, Bosh was able to take advantage of the youth and inexperience of the Nuggets' big men when he had the ball in his hands. He could create a little bit of space and put in a jumper right over their outstretched hands.
Defensively, however, Bosh looked slow and tired. He was easily boxed out by JaVale McGee or Kosta Koufos, which allowed them to dominate the offensive glass, and his lack of physicality was a big reason for Miami's 72-40 deficit in the paint.
Against New York, Bosh was obviously hampered by Tyson Chandler, shooting just 5-13, so it'll be interesting to see how he fares against a big, physical center like Gortat.
Gortat has emerged as a surprise for the Suns so far, blocking 12 shots in three games to go along with 12.5 rebounds and 13 points. He's no longer an inexperienced big man. He's a legitimate veteran center who knows what he's doing.
X-Factors: Goran Dragic
This is probably the only position where the Suns have a legitimate advantage over the Heat.
Mario Chalmers has already had problems with speedy point guards this year (Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo and even Raymond Felton), and Dragic is just another in a long list of fast guards in the NBA today.
If the Suns are going to have any chance of getting out of Miami with their second win of the season, they're going to need Dragic—their leading scorer—to run the offense to a tee and score on 'Rio at will.
We've already seen what Ray Allen is capable of off the bench for the Heat, so there's no reason to believe that he's anything but one of the biggest bench threats in the NBA.
Allen hit the game-winning shot against Denver, but it was so much more than that. He came into the game in the fourth quarter and scored 11 of Miami's 32 fourth quarter points, including a game-winning four point play.
Allen's 52.3 percent clip from downtown is downright scary. The space he creates on the floor for Miami makes their offense the best in the league. If Phoenix happens to catch a night when LeBron is particularly interested in penetrating (which is pretty much every night), Allen will end up as open as a Wal-Mart on New Year's Eve.
The Suns have yet to show they can come even remotely close to hanging with a team anywhere near the caliber of Miami. A single, three-point win over Detroit paired with losses to Golden State and Orlando don't inspire confidence.
They've got good parts, but they have a non-existent bench. It's not even useful as a stop-gap, let alone a group capable of making a positive contribution to a professional basketball team.
Miami's firepower is going to prove to be the back-breaker of this Phoenix team. Plus, this seems like it will be the game that gets Miami's defense back on track.
On the rough end of a back-to-back for the first time this season against a rested Heat team, Phoenix can't keep up with Miami.
Miami 108, Phoenix 93