From having a comfortable schedule — prior to the season’s hiatus — to arguably one of the toughest heading into Disney World, Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat are in for a rollercoaster ride.
The NBA has released the schedule for all 22 teams involved in the resumption of the 2019-20 season on Friday. 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.
305Sports analyzed how all eight games could come about for the Heat. You can see that here: Analyzing The Miami Heat’s Remaining Schedule.
They’ll be tasked to matchup against a potential first-round competitor in the Indiana Pacers, and three second or third round suitors, in the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. In total, seven of the eight games will be versus a team with a plus .500 record.
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 Heat have weight on their shoulders to remain dominant off the gate and jump in the standings.
Miami’s seeding could possibly skyrocket to second-place, or tumble down to sixth-place. And according to one metric, the hardest strength of schedule in the NBA, the odds are against a Heat team that has exceeded early expectations.
With the return to NBA basketball a month away, here are some takes on how the Heat should panel through their difficult schedule.
Game 1: It’s Time To Adjust
Three plus months without suiting up will definitely take a toll on the Heat, along with every team. Although players have stayed conditioned and ready to go, there’s nothing like playing an NBA game.
The Heat’s first meeting will likely be there most difficult, considering past experiences versus the Denver Nuggets. Denver trampled the Heat in their only meeting of the season, 109-89, holding Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro to just two points each. Adjusting the rotation — with Herro and Meyers Leonard both healthy — should be the primary use of Miami’s first regular season game at Disney.
Miami hasn’t had the opportunity to play with its full roster after the additions of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Solomon Hill. The chance to play a team that they likely won’t see again this season grants the Heat a chance to modify their lineup.
Game 2: Time To Make A Statement
The Southeast Division champs are bound to make a statement against a heavy favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Having lost to them twice early in the season, the Toronto Raptors should treat the game as a must-win. A potential semi final or conference final series, this game has sentiment behind it.
As for the Miami Heat, who held Toronto to 76 points in a home victory back in January, it’ll be important for them to capture a third consecutive win against the reigning champions. Both teams are ready to go, it’s a matter of who’s capable of making the right moves.
Game 3: A MUST Win
A back-to-back after playing a top tier team is considered as a ‘must win’? Yes, without a doubt.
If there’s one team that’s stopped the Miami Heat from playing their style of basketball, it’s the Boston Celtics. Whether it be a dynamic scoring performance from Kemba Walker, a second-half showing from Gordon Hayward, a competitive outing from Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, or an overall effort from a loaded squad, Boston seems to get the worst performances from the Heat.
That has to be changed. And with the acquisition of Iguodala, known for making big-time defensive stops in late-minute scenarios, Miami needs to overrule the Celtics before they possibly meet in the playoffs. Coming off a back-to-back doesn’t make it any easier, but it’ll surely prepare the Heat for a best of seven series.
Game 4-5: Miami Heat Basketball At Its Finest
Time has gone by, and the Heat should feel comfortable in their style of play to scroll past two teams they have an undefeated record against this season.
Against the Bucks, the Heat blemished into an incredible rhythm, holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to 13 points in a 105-89 victory. As for Phoenix, who suffered a 124-108 loss in their only meeting with the Heat, this should be Miami’s easiest test of the eight-game schedule. Still, Phoenix never backs down without a fight, which serves as a great battle for the Heat.
Game 6: Potential First Round Matchup
We’d be seeing a first-round matchup between both squads if the postseason were to start today. With Indiana and Miami both healed up, we could be in store for a great contest. There’s no questioning each teams hunger to outmatch one another, creating a playoff environment regardless of the fans in attendance.
Miami has the chance to close the season series at 3-0, serving as a motivational boost before potentially seeing each other in the first round.
Game 7-8: Time To Cool Down
It’s an exaggeration to think the Heat should rest their starting five to stay away from any injury of some sort. However, minute restrictions should be implemented. That’s if Miami’s still fighting for seeding, however. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see that verdict.
Falling from fourth to fifth-place in the standings makes no impact at this point, considering that they’ll be playing at a third-party site regardless of who is technically home or away. Both games could serve as another chance for coach Spoelstra to test out specific rotations nearing the playoffs.