Let the games begin.
The NBA has released the schedule for all 22 teams involved in the resumption of the 2019-20 season. The Miami Heat’s games in order are as followed: Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers.
The Heat’s eight-game schedule will be played in 14 days, kicking things off August 1. Miami will play Indiana twice, and everyone else just once. They will play back-to-back games on August 3 and August 4.
Miami will compete in two weekday afternoon games, one Saturday afternoon game, one Saturday night game and three weeknight games. The time for a Friday matchup against Indiana — which wraps up the season — is to-be-determined.
According to Barry Jackson, Miami will have three nationally televised games — at least one against the Boston Celtics — during the first week of seeding games, which is August 3.
As they were prior to the NBA’s stoppage, the Miami Heat are in quest for the third seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
Although they have already clinched a trip to the playoffs — 41-24 record before the hiatus, holding the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference standings — the Southeast Division champs have weight on their shoulders to remain dominant off the gate and jump in the standings.
The Heat sit 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the third seed and two games ahead of the fifth-place Indiana Pacers and sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami’s seeding could possibly skyrocket to second-place, or tumble down to sixth-place. And with the hardest strength of schedule in the NBA, the odds are against the team that has exceeded early expectations.
I decided to analyze all of Miami’s eight regular-season games and how they could play out.
Saturday, August 1 at 1:00 PM: Denver Nuggets (ESPN)
The Miami Heat’s first game off an extended break could possibly be their most difficult.
Whether it be because of All-Star big man Nikola Jokic, or the road trip to Denver, things never seem to go right against the Nuggets.
The Heat have a lot to prove in this one. In their only meeting of the season, Denver splattered the Heat at home, 109-89. While these teams won’t likely meet again until next season, it’ll be a great test for Miami, as they take on a contending team. Similar to many of their losses, a strong second-half will likely cost the Heat a chance to even up the season series.
Monday, August 3 at 1:30 PM: Toronto Raptors (NBA TV)
Mark my words: Game of the year.
Just think about it. Two of the best Eastern Conference teams fighting it out for the respective honor of third place in the standings.
With a chance to take on a banged-up Brooklyn Nets (with all due respect) instead of a healed up Indiana Pacers, how couldn’t the Heat bring it all they have? Both teams will surely be playoff ready. And even without any fans in attendance, it could turn out to still be a playoff atmosphere at Disney World.
Tuesday, August 4 at 6:30 PM: Boston Celtics (TNT)
And here we go, the most important stretch of games for the Miami Heat.
Boston has undoubtedly given Miami the hardest outing this season. In 2 meetings against the Celtics, Miami has failed to get a win, losing the first meeting 93-112 and the second at AAA, 109-101.
With so much perennial scoring from Boston’s side — led by All-Star’s Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker — with the addition of Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward, It’s not easy to limit Boston from scoring the basketball. The key to the game will be the 1-on-1 matchup between Miami’s Duncan Robinson and Boston’s Gordon Hayward. While Robinson is used primarily for his three-point shooting, defense will play a role in him staying on the floor against the Celtics.
In their last meeting, Hayward finished with a team-high 29 points on 10-14 shooting. Duncan struggled to find his usual rhythm, shooting 4-12, scoring just 12 points. Boston took advantage of the matchup a number of times in the final minutes, ultimately leading to a Celtics victory.
If Miami could limit Hayward’s offense and instead force Jayson Tatum — who’ll be guarded by an excellent defender in Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo — to take the majority of the shots, we could be in store for one of the leagues best games of the season.
Thursday, August 6 at 4:00 PM: Milwaukee Bucks (TNT)
Ranked as the No. 1 team in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks have the depth that not too many teams have. Led by an All-Star duo in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — alongside veterans Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe — Milwaukee won’t be a walk in the park, considering that this game will also be the first one in months for the Heat.
However, Miami now has full flexibility with the return of Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard. The return of the two will feature a quicker style of play, contributing to three-point success.
Having beaten them twice earlier in the season, Miami should have the advantage of what be a thriller. If one team knows how to stop Antetounkoumpo, its the Heat, who held him to a season-low 13 points in a 105-89 Miami victory.
Saturday, August 8, at 7:30 PM: Phoenix Suns (Sun Sports)
At last, the NBA blessed the Heat with one team with a record below .500.
Unless Miami goes back to their disastrous second-half performances — against the Cleveland Cavaliers (2/24/20) — this should be an easy victory, to say the least.
This should be the awakening of Tyler Herro, who matched up very well against Devin Booker earlier in the season. Miami can’t be greedy, however. Phoenix needs to win all eight of their games to even contend for a spot in the playoffs, meaning that they won’t back down without a fight.
Monday, August 10 at 8:00 PM: Indiana Pacers (SunSports)
There’s a lot of seeding implications for this one, as both teams are expected to meet in the first-round.
Headlined by the headbutting between Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren, we could be in store for some hard-fought basketball.
All healed up, Indiana could be destined for a great run heading into the playoffs. Led by Victor Oladipo — who’s played just 13 games this season — and All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, Miami needs to excel from beyond the arc and rebound the ball exceptionally well to prevent guys like Sabonis and Miles Turner from getting hot.
Fournatelty, like Milwaukee, Miami defeated Indiana twice earlier in the season. Regardless, Oladipo’s ability to provide despite missing so much time will play a great factor in the game’s result. As usual, this meeting will come down to last-minute heroics.
Wednesday, August 12 at 8:00 PM: Oklahoma City Thunder (SunSports)
If the NBA approved the fan-favorite 16 team seedless playoffs, this game would’ve meant so much more. Oklahoma City will be a great test for Miami’s backcourt, facing off against Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous Alexander.
What to watch for won’t necessarily come on the floor, but in the sidelines – Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan. This game could take a toll on Coach of the Year voting.
This game could give both coaches an opportunity to play with rotations – because both teams like won’t meet in the postseason. Could we see Jae Crowder or Derrick Jones Jr. hop back into the starting five over Meyers Leonard in an attempt to run small ball? Will Goran Dragic make his return to Miami’s starting lineup as veteran leadership will be needed in playoff moments?
Miami defeated Oklahoma City in their only meeting of the season. Granted, big man Steven Adams didn’t play. It’ll be up to Miami’s rebounding ratio and three-point shooting to take down the Thunder.
Friday, August 14 at TBD: Indiana Pacers (Again)
Why yes, another potential first-round meeting.
Miami and Indiana will both get the opportunity to see each other one more time before possibly seeing each other in the playoffs. Both teams will be warmed up from the NBA’s hiatus and may even treat it as if it were already a best of seven series.
That’s if both teams are still fighting for seeding, however. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see that verdict.
While the Miami Heat didn’t get the easiest eight-game schedule, they sure got one that’ll better prepare them for playoff basketball. At this point, dropping to fifth place in the East standings doesn’t mean anything to Miami, considering that they’ll be playing at a third-party site regardless of who is technically home or away.
These stretch of games will serve as a great way for coach Erik Spoelstra to prepare a starting lineup come playoff time. In addition, give those who were injured — Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard — and those who were recently acquired — Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill — to settle into what has been a rollercoaster season for the Miami Heat.