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NBA - US Sports: Suns and Miami turning up the Heat

The 2021/22 NBA regular season is about to enter its final month, with the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat appearing the teams to beat.

Phoenix sit top of the Western Conference standings and will head to the FTX Arena during the early hours of Thursday morning to take on Eastern pacesetters Miami in a contest that could underline both teams Championship credentials. You can follow the action via our Sports Live Streaming service.

Suns the pick of the bunch

It had been 11 years since the Suns had made it through to the postseason, but last year, under the guide of head coach Monty Williams, they were crowned Western Conference champions for the first time since 1993.

That put a first ever championship success within touching distance for Phoenix, although they ultimately came up short, losing 4-2 in the NBA Finals to Milwaukee Bucks.

However, that near miss appears to have inspired the Suns, who are 17/4 to be crowned NBA champions, as they currently boast the best record in the league this season (51-13), with the team having lost nine fewer games than anyone else.

Winning back-to-back Conference titles will be the minimum aim for the Suns at odds of 8/5, with their 23-5 record since the of the year underlining that they are showing no signs of slowing down.

Miami's lead at the top of the East is less commanding, with their 44-22 record leaving them four wins clear of both the Philadelphia 76ers and reigning champions Milwaukee.

The Heat certainly have plenty of recent pedigree having reached the NBA Finals six times since 2006, picking up three wins during that period, and they are priced at 10/1 to add another title in 2022.

Erik Spoelstra's team are also in good form - they are 12-3 since the start of February - but in a competitive Conference that contains the Bucks, the big-spending Brooklyn Nets and the impressive Chicago Bulls, being crowned champions of the East at 19/4 is not going to prove easy.

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Lakers floundering in the West

The Los Angeles Lakers are the most successful team in NBA history, claiming their 17th championship crown in 2020 under the influence of a certain LeBron James.

James has continued to impress (when fit) this season, notably notching 56 points in the Lakers recent 124-116 success over Golden State Warriors.

The problem is, that is one of only two wins the Lakers have mustered from their last 10 games, with James at times having to single-handedly carry his team.

That alarming dip in form has also seen Frank Vogel's team drop to ninth in the West and they are in real danger of missing out on the upcoming play-in tournament, never mind making the playoffs themselves.

There is still time for the Lakers to turn their season around, and they can be backed at 20/1 to be crowned Conference champions for a 20th time, but James is going to need help from the rest of his team-mates, including high-profile duo Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

Embiid leading MVP race

Joel Embiid is averaging 29.7 points-per-game in the NBA during 2021/22, which is not only the best record in the league this season, but it has also helped his Philadelphia 76ers team maintain a serious challenge at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The 27-year-old is 4/6 to be crowned Regular Season MVP, with his and the 76ers' cause likely to be helped by the recent arrival of James Harden from Conference rivals Brooklyn Nets.

Embiid's main rivals for the MVP award are likely to come from the previous two winners of the accolade, with 12/5 Nikola Jokic and 11/2 Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing to catch the eye for the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks respectively.

Ja Morant has also been pulling up trees with a Memphis Grizzlies team that appear to be defying expectations by sitting second in the Western Conference.

The 22-year-old is 12/1 to be crowned MVP, while the Grizzlies, who did reach the first round of the playoffs last year, are priced at 25/1 to land a first ever Championship success.

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