The Miami Heat are off to a 2-2 start early in the season, and as their record would indicate the results have been mixed. Miami has scored over 100 points in each contest, but they are also allowing 108.5 per game so far. The Heat cannot afford another slow start to the season, as evidenced by narrowly missing the playoffs last year. It will be crucial to establish some momentum on the last three games of this six game home stand. Miami won their first two home games of the season against Indiana and Atlanta before suffering a 17-point loss to the Spurs. Here is a look at the teams Miami will face in the next three games before the heading back on the road.
Boston Celtics- Saturday Oct. 28th 8PM
The Celtics got off to the most cruel start imaginable, losing Gordon Hayward six minutes into the season with a gruesome leg injury against Cleveland. Boston was rightfully shook in that game, but since then have won three out of four. Kyrie Irving is growing more comfortable in Brad Stevens’ offense and Al Horford is off to a great start. Boston is fourth in the NBA allowing only 96 points per game so far, and surprisingly they are tenth in rebounds per game at 46. After a rough first game against Lebron James, first round pick Jayson Tatum has settled in nicely and is contributing a solid 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
For Miami, the status of center Hassan Whiteside is still in doubt, he has missed every game since the season opener. Erik Spoelstra is still searching for the right rotations, he may need to get creative and try to go big against the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk should be fired up for the game against his former team and may see an increased role in this one. Miami has struggled on the boards and currently rank 27th in the league in rebounding. Goran Dragic should be able to attack Irving off the dribble and the Heat will need to keep their spacing and pass with precision against a stingy Celtics defense. Miami will have to guard the three-point line better, and also cash in on their own from long range. So far the Heat are allowing a league worst 43.2 percent from behind the arc, while Boston is allowing only 30.4 percent.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Monday Oct. 30th 7:30PM
Like Miami, Minnesota is having trouble defending the three ball as they rank 28th in that category. Surprisingly for a Tom Thibodeau team they are allowing 113.8 points per game. Jimmy Butler has missed two games early in the week with an upper respiratory infection but returned Friday against Oklahoma City and bounced back with 25 points, seven assists, and five rebounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns is off to a monster start, averaging 23.2 points and 10.4 rebounds a game and shooting almost 60 percent from the field. Hopefully Hassan Whiteside will be back in action, Towns will be a great challenge for the Heat on the low block. Besides Towns the Timberwolves have had their troubles rebounding and actually rank below the Heat. Andrew Wiggins is second on the Wolves in scoring at 20.4 points per game and veteran point guard Jeff Teague leads in assists with 6.4 per game. Minnesota has three top line scorers and with Jamal Crawford off the bench, Miami will have their hands full on defense.
Chicago Bulls- Wednesday Nov. 1 7:30PM
To finish the home stand the Miami Heat will take on the Chicago Bulls who have really struggled out of the gate losing three out of their first four games. Rookie Lauri Markkenen is making an immediate impact for the Bulls, averaging a double-double with 15.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. Robin Lopez is steady at center and shooting guard Justin Holiday leads the team in scoring with 17 per game. The problem with Chicago is they cannot score enough, currently they rank 29th in the NBA with just 95 points per game. They finally picked up their first win against Atlanta on Thursday.
It has been a weird season for the Bulls, they lost center Nikola Mirotic to a concussion and facial injuries after being sucker punched in the face by teammate Bobby Portis in practice. Rumblings are being heard that Mirotic would be receptive to a trade should Portis remain on the roster moving forward. Portis is currently serving a team imposed eight game suspension. Miami should be heavily favored in this game and have an opportunity to close out the home stand with a win against a Bulls team trying to find their way.
It will be a tough assignment for Miami against Boston, but they should be able to compete and perhaps steal a close one at home. The Timberwolves and Bulls are middle of the road teams seeking an identity, Miami really needs to take care of them both.
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