Slumping Heat aim to get hot against NBA-worst Suns
When the Phoenix Suns -- who are in the midst of a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak -- visit the Miami Heat on Monday night, at least one of these teams has not given up on a possible playoff berth.
That would be the Heat, who have lost five straight home games and are 2-8 in their past 10 games overall. Miami hasn't won a home game since Jan. 12, but coach Erik Spoelstra said reaching the playoffs this season is paramount
"There's a built-in sense of urgency with our group right now," Spoelstra said.
The reason is that this is the final season for 13-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion guard Dwyane Wade, who will retire this summer.
Miami, which is currently out of playoff position, has struggled mightily at home this season, posting just an 11-17 record.
Phoenix, though, has the worst record in the NBA overall and are just 4-28 on the road, which also ranks at the very bottom of the league.
This will mark the second straight game Miami will face a player who was on its roster earlier this season. On Saturday, the Heat got routed by the visiting Detroit Pistons 119-96. Former Heat guard Wayne Ellington started for Detroit and had six points, and the Pistons' bench outscored Miami's reserves 66-35.
On Monday, the Heat will face guard Tyler Johnson, who they traded earlier this season. Johnson scored a game-high and a season-high 29 points on Saturday as his Suns lost at the Atlanta Hawks 120-112.
"I thought we played really hard," said Johnson, who has become a team leader in his brief six-game stint with the Suns. "(We just had) lapses in judgment at the end."
Miami is 16-1 against the Suns since 2009, and that includes the Heat's 115-98 win over host Phoenix on Dec. 7. Heat backup center Bam Adebayo, starting in place of Hassan Whiteside in that game, led Miami with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami has won eight straight home games against the Suns, but the Heat may be without three of its rotation players due to injuries: forward James Johnson (shoulder), guard Justise Winslow (knee) and wing Rodney McGruder (knee).
However, Heat 2018 All-Star point guard Goran Dragic returned on Saturday in his first game since Dec. 10.
Now recovered from knee surgery, Dragic will apparently need more time to resume his pre-injury form. Against the Pistons, he was used in a reserve role and had just four points on 2-of-6 shooting, turning the ball over twice and coming up empty on assists in a spotty 16-minute performance.
Phoenix, meanwhile, is dealing with an ankle injury suffered by 6-8 small forward T.J. Warren, who has been out since Jan. 22.
Warren has emerged as a stellar scorer while starting 160 games over the past three years. He averaged 19.6 points last season and 18.0 this year. He is second on the Suns in scoring, trailing only Devin Booker, who is averaging 24.7 points but missed the first Miami game this season due to injury.
Booker, a 6-6 shooting guard, also leads the Suns in assists with 6.7 per game. Deandre Ayton, the Suns' 7-1 rookie center and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is averaging 16.4 points and a team-high 10.5 rebounds.
For the Heat, shooting guard Josh Richardson leads the team with 17.6 points per game, Dragic tops the chart with 4.5 assists, and 7-footer Whiteside paces Miami in rebounds (12.3) and blocks (2.1).
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2019